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Maksim Gorodov
Maksim Gorodov

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What to do if I want to work so much but have nothing to work on?

Hi guys! I'm a frontend developer with almost 4 years of experience. I started with websites on HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and a little bit more than 2 years ago I started working with React. Unfortunately, 99,9% of this time I worked either on freelance (all websites — no web apps or anything like this, even though I had some websites on Gatsby) or on my own projects. I had almost all my freelance projects from one customer so unfortunately, I didn't master the science of searching for new customers and new projects.

So, why am I telling you all this stuff? Right now I'm in such place when I want to work, I want to work hard and a lot because I love working on frontend, I love JavaScript, I love React, I want to grow as a developer, I tried working with TypeScript and I want to work with it more, I want to write tests, I want to work in a team with teammates who want to grow as developers too, and the most important thing — I need to work to keep myself busy because otherwise, I regret that I'm just wasting my time.

But the problem is that I can't find a job or a new freelance project on React. And I have no idea what to do. It's not the first week or first month, it's going like this for half a year. I tried to find a job or new projects on React. I had an idea to work open-source on some projects like Gatsby or some other projects I know and I like but it's all in vain. I would love to work on my own projects but I don't even have any ideas. It's just sad that so much energy and passion is wasted. And I thought maybe you could help me with that? Any ideas, recommendations or anything else is welcome. If somebody has an open-source project or a project that is dedicated to helping people or anything else and you think I'll be useful — please, I'm open to anything.

Thank you!

Discussion (6)

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pclundaahl profile image
Patrick Charles-Lundaahl

I mean, I think I'm hearing a few of different things. If I've got any of these wrong, I apologize! Please let me know. Also, all of this is just my opinions, based on my own, personal experience. Take anything I say with a grain of salt.

TLDR

  • Get focused
  • Treat job hunting as a full-time job
  • Break your goals into bite-sized bits and practice deliberately
  • Put discipline before passion

Re: staying focused
First off, it sounds like maybe you're lacking focus? If you try to do all of these things at once, you're going to do a shoddy job in all of them at best.

I would recommend picking 1 area to focus on, or maybe one primary and a secondary area that's complimentary, and put all the rest on the backburner. E.g., 1) find full-time employment, 2) skill up. Then, I would break those things down into something you can attack deliberately and in small chunks, and then treat it like a job.

The areas I'm hearing are:

  • Build side projects
  • Find full-time employment
  • Find a freelancing gig
  • Improve in a few key skills
  • Get better at developing in a team

I would say that finding freelance work conflicts with your objective of getting better at teamwork.

I would also say that you should pick either finding freelance work or finding full-time employment. They'll both take a very large amount of time.

Re: job hunting
Job hunting is very much its own skillset. I don't personally think there's a lot of crossover between it and developer skills. If your primary focus is job hunting, improving your developer skills should probably be secondary (you'll be learning new development skills your whole career anyway). I'm definitely no expert, but I think some of the things to focus on would probably be:

  • Networking
  • Interviewing, both standard and informational
  • Professional writing (resumes, cover letters, letters in general)

A second point about job hunting: in the end, a lot of it is really just a numbers game. Particularly when you're early in your career, your portfolio isn't going to impress anyone, so the goal is really to find a company/hiring manager who thinks you have potential and is willing to give you a shot. You don't have a network of past clients or employers, so you have to win new ones. Try to focus on getting applications out every day, and improving just a little bit every time you do it.

Re: personal projects
I have three things I'd like to mention here:

First, if you're short on ideas, there are well-established techniques for solving that. Some examples:

  • Brainstorm. Write a list of 20 ideas every morning. Don't worry about what they are, just get them out on paper. After a week you'll have over a hundred ideas, and a handful of them might be good.
  • Look online! There are huge lists out there.

That said, if I were saying "I have no ideas" (I've definitely said this before), I think what I would really be saying "I don't want to put in the work, and I don't want to work on an idea that isn't impressive." Those are based on my own, personal demons, and I'm not saying that's what you're implying - only that it might be worth examining whether or not there's an underlying block there.

Second, if I were in your place, I'd be considering why I want to do side projects. What's the goal? To skill up? To build a portfolio? To express your passion for development and chase the satisfaction of building something with your own two hands? Each of these are extremely different. Which you prioritize will have a huge impact on what projects will be best suited for you.

Third: keep your projects small. Like, 1/10th the size you think you need. Once you have 10 or 20 small projects done, then consider doing something big. In the beginning, it's really important to just get in the habit of finishing things.

Re: passion
This is maybe an unpopular opinion, but: you won't always get to work on things you like. Relying on your passion to drive your work is, in my opinion, unprofessional. If someone talks to me about how passionate they are about a technology or a line of work, the first question I ask myself is "what happens when things get tough and your passion dries up?"

I want team members who are reliable, not who put in long hours at the start and then get jaded and fizzle out when they don't feel immediately thrilled by the work we have to do to keep the lights on.

Also, to be clear, I'm not saying don't be passionate about things! I'm saying don't let that be the driver. You obviously can (and should) take enjoyment out of stuff, and when you're employed and your career is moving forward, you can spend as much or as little time on your passion projects as you want. But when it comes to work, I really think that prioritizing consistency over passion is essential to being a professional.

Right, that's it from me. Good luck, and apologies for the wall of text! I hope some of this helps, and that you find a job you like with awesome team members. I also hope I didn't offend you with any of this. Keep at it, and you'll get there.

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jeromedeleon profile image
Jerome De Leon

The means a lot to me. Thanks.

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silencerweb profile image
Maksim Gorodov Author

Thanks a lot, that's a lot of things to think about in one post. I will definitely re-read it a few times more. And you don't worry, you didn't offend me in any way :)

Thanks again!

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pclundaahl profile image
Patrick Charles-Lundaahl

No worries! Keep at it - you'll figure this out!

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nicolocarpignoli profile image
Nicolò Carpignoli

There's a lot to do for current crisis. Even frontends projects. Here's a great list: twitter.com/nicolarushton/status/1...

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jeromedeleon profile image
Jerome De Leon

This is me for the past years even today. It helps just by knowing that I'm not the only one who has the same experience.