/dev/journal: I had the chance to catch up with one of our recent graduate hires today, and during a very interesting conversation we got to talking about whether I had any advice to share with my young colleague. I did.

You have more agency than you think

As a new employee anywhere, especially as a junior employee in a vast organisation such as ours, it is easy to get overwhelmed by both bureaucracy, management chain, and team inertia. It can feel like you have to “do this thing, this way” for everything in your daily routine. But in reality, we all have more agency than we think. We all have the agency to speak to our team about the metaphorical stone in our shoe, and ask them to help get rid of it.

The stone in your shoe could be that Bob always speaks last during stand-up, and always gets cut off as we run out of time. For the next iteration, why don’t we randomise the order each day to see how that feels? As even the most junior of team-members, this is an entirely valid observation and suggestion, and you absolutely have agency to to bring it up.

The stone in your shoe might be that 9 to 5 isn’t working for you, for whatever reason. Speak to the team, speak to the manager, find a pattern that works for you and the people you work with. You have the agency to bring it up.

Corollary: You have more agency than you think, even after taking into account the fact that you have more agency than you think!

We accept the legitimacy we think we deserve

Paraphrasing Stephen Chbosky from his book “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”. Our background, culture, and the sum of our experiences to today determine how we think about ourselves in any given context. As a junior developer in an established team, part of a large organisation, it’s easy to start thinking that we don’t have as much legitimacy as others. Yet those around us my ascribe us far MORE legitimacy than we realise, because we’re not prepared to accept it.

Understanding this, and not letting our imposter syndrome prevent us from accepting the legitimacy we’re offered, can be the key to making the next step.

Plan to have more employers than spouses

We talk a lot about work/life balance (or ‘harmony’), but sooner or later there will come a time when you have to choose between ‘career’ and ‘relationship’. Always choose ‘relationship’. By all means discuss with your partner and make good, deliberate decisions about what’s worth compromising for (hopefully in the short-term), but if it comes to a point where it has to be one or the other, always choose ‘relationship’.

You can always find another job, and this job is not worth sacrificing a relationship for.

What advice do YOU have for my young friend? Or me, for that matter?