Hi Taro Community!
I am in a very similar position as mentioned by someone here: https://www.jointaro.com/question/MldWyFYyJUTxRGjId2f5/help-needed-new-grad-job-going-at-a-slow-pace-with-nothing-to-do-next-steps/ and from the responses it is evident that switching teams/companies will be an unavoidable step soon. I am currently at an entry-level position (will be completing 6 months at current company soon) and wish to look for roles at the next level of hierarchy (for instance my current role is equivalent to SDE 1, I wish to look for roles similar to SDE 2 or equivalent next). Few points:
Any insights/suggestions/interview tips will be really appreciated. I have very less workload right now and really want to make the best use of time to switch further.
Firstly, is it realistic to prepare for mid-level at the current position? Do companies hire entry-level SWE's with at most 1 yr of experience for mid-level?
I think you should (junior and mid-level aren't too different honestly both in practice and in interviews), but set expectations low. 1 YOE is traditionally quite risky for a mid-level hire (even at an extremely fast-paced company like Meta, most engineers take >1 year to go from E3 -> E4). 2 YOE is when mid-level starts reasonably coming into play, and it's important to keep in mind that the job market sucks right now so everyone is getting down-leveled. There are no shortage of competent mid-level engineers right now who are happy to get down-leveled to junior, especially if it's for a reputable company like Big Tech.
If yes, is it advisable to apply now (or 6 months down the line)?
Finding a job takes time, especially for junior engineers like yourself. You can just apply now, at least passively. Best case, it would take you 3-4 months to enter a hypothetical new job anyways (apply, phone screen, onsite, offer, negotiation, start), and that point, you will have ~1 YOE at your current job.
I wouldn't worry too much about "losing" promotion progress as 6-12 months isn't too long. That's a cost that needs to be taken if you're going to switch companies unless you want to speed run a mid-level promotion in your current team (and this will take time). You can't have it all, especially in this market because, again, it sucks.
How can I best utilize the next 6 months before I aggressively start applying to companies? I understood the point related to side projects - is it advisable to build side projects in the tech stack my team is using, or should I expand my scope to include new technologies I am interested (but not actively working on right now)?
When it comes to side project choice, the logic is pretty simple:
Here's some great resources about side projects: [Taro Top 10] Building Impressive Side Projects
Check out our junior to mid-level playlist too: [Taro Top 10] Junior Engineer To Mid-Level Engineer (L3 To L4)
Thank you Alex for the detailed response!
How can I best utilize the next 6 months before I aggressively start applying to companies?
Work on projects that let you tell detailed, high-quality stories about what you accomplished. Focus on projects that will ship something, ideally publicly, with well-defined metrics. Be able to talk about key decisions you made.
Don't spend time on projects that have a 1+ year time horizon.