Starting to learn to code can be a difficult process. Every time you sit down to practice your skills, you’ll likely encounter a problem that you struggle to figure out or an error that you do not understand. In many situations, it can feel easier to give up rather than to keep going. 

When you’re first starting out, there is a lot that can overwhelm you, from the technical terminology to the number of resources out there with different approaches to learning how to code.

However, if you are willing to invest the time and effort in learning how to code, the rewards are plentiful. Not only does learning how to code open up a number of career options for you—you could become a consultant or transition to a career in tech—it also helps you refine your problem-solving, creativity, and critical thinking skills. These are the exact skills that are growing in demand among employers.

To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of six “dos and don’ts” for aspiring coders. These tips will help you navigate the process of learning how to code more effectively by teaching you to recognize the common traps many beginners fall into so that you can avoid them. Let’s break down the top six dos and don’ts for aspiring coders.

Do: Take a Course or Attend Bootcamp

While there are many self-taught developers out there, a growing number of aspiring coders are starting to take online courses or attending bootcamps to help them on their journey.

Taking a course or attending a coding bootcamp will give you a structured curriculum and the ability to work with other people who are in the same boat as you: people who are learning to code. This environment gives you the support framework you need to keep going when times get tough. And having a clear curriculum ensures that you are always making progress on your learning.

When you’re starting to learn how to code, take some time to look at what courses are available to you and decide if any of them will be worth your time. For example, if you want to learn to code so you can build cool side projects, you may want to consider an online coding program. But if you want to transition to a career in tech, you may want to look for an immersive course that can guide you in launching your new career.

Don’t: Rush the Learning Process

Learning how to code is time-consuming and requires a lot of effort. When you’re getting started, make sure that you focus on learning the basics, and then go onto studying more advanced concepts when you’re ready. You may feel like you’re not making enough progress by starting at the basics, but it’s the only way to prepare yourself for the difficult work further down the line.

You’ll master coding over time and steadily piece together a spectacular portfolio to showcase your skills. But don’t be too hasty, as sloppy portfolios are easy to spot (and easily undermine your career). Everyone starts somewhere, and everyone has their own learning pace—so take your time and learn to your best ability. 

Do: Keep Practicing

Programming languages and technologies change all the time, so there’s always more for you to learn. When you’re learning how to code, you should make it a point to practice as often as possible. Even if the work you are doing is tough, the more you practice the better you’ll learn the topics that you are covering.

Programming is like learning how to ride a bike. First, you need to master the fundamentals through practice, practice, practice. Then, you are able to start learning more tricks. But in order to reach that level of mastery, you need to show up as often as possible and refine your skills.

Don’t: Give Up Early

Every time you get stuck, remember that coding takes time to learn, and takes a lot of practice. If you feel tired, take a break and come back to the project you are working on later. Remember that everyone makes mistakes and that each mistake is an opportunity for you to learn.

Your code may break. Your code may not work correctly on the first try. That’s all just part of the journey of learning to code.

Do: Set Clear Goals and Objectives

Athletes set clear goals to keep them accountable for their progress. As an aspiring coder, you should take a similar stance to setting goals. When you start out on your journey, think about why you are learning to code, and research what you need to know to reach your goals.

For example, let’s say you are learning Python, which is a common language for beginners due to its simple syntax and versatility. During your first week of learning, you may want to complete three introductory tutorials that your friend has recommended. Then, on your second week, you may want to complete another two tutorials and create a demo project that uses all the skills you have learned.

Whatever your goals are, make sure that you set them early and that you are as specific as possible when defining them. Having goals makes it easy for you to figure out your next steps, and also to see how far you have already come!

Don’t: Be Afraid to Ask for Help

When you’re learning how to code, it may be tempting to sit at a desk and spend your days working through tutorials. However, after a while, it can become challenging to learn how to code by yourself.

Make sure that you surround yourself with other people—new coders, experts, mentors, and anyone else you think can help—from an early stage, and feel free to reach out to those people when you need help. Having other people around you who can help will not only make it easier for you to navigate the bugs and issues you encounter during your learning journey, but you’ll also have someone who can hold you accountable for your goals.

In addition, if you ever get stuck, don’t be ashamed to Google the answer or look on a site like Stack Overflow for help (I’ll let you in on an open secret: even advanced programmers turn to Google or Stack Overflow with errors and bugs).

Learning how to code is a time-consuming affair, but it is one of the best ways that you can use your spare time in the 2020s. 

As automation continues to displace jobs, and as existing jobs become more technical in nature, knowing how to code will be massively beneficial for your career. Learning how to code also gives you the skills you need to build your own technical side projects and solve problems using a variety of new approaches. Just remember, the journey may be long, but with the right support, you can learn to code!

Do: Attend Meetups

Meetups are an excellent way to get your tech career off the ground. Networking is essential for all professionals, especially coders—in the tech industry, opportunity often starts with a handshake and a good impression. Meetups also allow aspiring programmers to build a tech network to exchange ideas, talk trends, and get acquainted with the latest industry developments.

Meetups offer valuable insight into the tech industry. Knowing who (and what) you have to work with is a significant asset that can prime your career for success. In short, attending meetups grants access to a pool of like-minded people with decades of combined expertise in the field. Tapping this valuable resource is easy—just show up, listen, and engage with your peers.