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Practicing SQL for Your First Day of Work

Your new SQL job is likely to surprise you in many ways. To minimize the risk of getting lost in the jungle of data, I recommend you get some additional SQL practice before your first day. There are special SQL practice sets and projects on the internet to help you prepare. You’ll also get help from your colleagues, as programmers are usually open and supportive.

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard about the opportunities SQL and data science offer. Many say that Structured Query Language is the best gateway to the IT world. They’re right: it’s easy to learn ( and absolutely accessible for most people) and to use, thanks to its simplicity and logical structure. But most importantly, SQL is very much in demand in the job market.

Make It Rain

The demand for SQL specialists isn’t just in the tech market; every company managing large databases needs data science specialists. Data is in everything we do, from serving clients and manufacturing products to assessing others’ work and optimizing processes. Thus, many business areas rely on data analysis. For example, marketing is all about drawing conclusions from data and optimizing future actions.

As SQL is the most popular data science language in the world, employers commonly choose to hire SQL developers. This demand translates into good money (and, for the developers, the satisfaction of knowing you’re making an impact… 😉).

Looking for a SQL Job

The LearnSQL.com team has explained (many times) why it’s worth learning SQL. I’m guessing you’ve already made the decision to embark on your SQL journey; if not, this article will help you start.

Once you’ve chosen the best way for you to learn and practice SQL, it’s time to look for your first database-related job. Due to the high demand for data-related experts, there are websites that specialize in listing such jobs. (We’ve rated the top 10 in this article.)

Before beginning your search, think about whether you’re looking for a full-time job or contract work. IT and data science offer both options, as do other industries. It’s perfectly possible to make a living exclusively out of contract work; quite a lot of SQL specialists do it. In this article, we’ve given a few tips for starting a freelance SQL career, which may be a nice alternative to a full-time job if you don’t feel like working in a predictable environment.

Don’t forget that you can do both: have a full-time job and a SQL side hustle. It’s a great way to get additional SQL practice, which will help you progress faster (and have a bit of pocket money, too).

Did You say extra money?

Applying for a Database-Related Job

Now that you feel confident in your SQL skills, you start applying for your first database-related job. A few days later, you receive an invitation for a job interview. Yay!

As SQL is a new skill for you, you may feel a bit nervous. But if you prepare well for the interview, you won’t struggle so much. It’s like with high school mock exams: if you get used to the situation, you’ll know what to expect. Self-confidence will replace nervousness. Here you can find several tips that’ll help you feel the atmosphere of data science job interviews.

What to Expect from a SQL Job

Congratulations, you got a database-related job! 🎉

The next question is: How do you start successfully? What should you expect? Will data science or data engineering be similar to your previous profession?

Whatever your professional roots are, you’re likely to get the feeling that tech is a slightly different world, but that’s good news. Here’s why.

IT and data science are probably the most beginner-friendly industries in the world. Don’t expect dress codes and strict corporate rules. Even if you get your database-related job in a large corporation, IT and data science departments are likely to feel more like a startup.

IT and data science are usually associated with guys with messy hair, nerdy faces, and huge glasses. While that’s not entirely true, what is true is that programmers and data scientists are not typical white-collar workers. Most of them are informal and chill – and, at the same time, open and friendly.

You should also know that most of them prefer to communicate directly, which is good news for your first day at work. Why?

If you come across something you don’t understand, you’re free to ask any question. Really! Ask as many questions as come to your mind, and I bet you’ll receive an answer. There’s no need to feel insecure: if you ask many questions today, you’ll be more knowledgeable tomorrow. It pays off.

Use the first day at your SQL job to socialize as much as possible. Join your colleagues when they go out for lunch. Ask them about their hobbies, families, and non-work stuff and listen to their answers. It always makes a good impression.

Before You Start: Even More SQL Practice

You may be wondering how to prepare for a new job. In this context, you should remember about the specifics of programming.

It’s not enough to just learn a programming language. What you really need for your first day at a SQL job is practice. As we’ve written many times on this blog, writing queries is all about practical skills. Every new concept you learn needs practice. SQL is not difficult, but knowing only the theory won’t take you anywhere.

Prcatice you must

That’s why the best SQL courses feature tons of exercises. It’s true both for in-person and online classes. If you’ve taken any of these, you’re more likely to finish with practical knowledge. You’re one step ahead of those who learned exclusively from dull theoretical lectures.

Apart from choosing a good data science course, you should do some additional SQL practice. This will keep you from forgetting concepts, and you’ll write your queries faster and with fewer mistakes.

You can practice SQL in two ways. The first one is to create your own data science project. Once you know the basics, choose an interesting database (there are tons of them on the internet) and think how you can modify its entries or what kind of data you could retrieve out of it to draw interesting conclusions. It’ll be even better if you choose a topic that really interests you. More fun translates into better learning.

Another way is to do an additional set of SQL exercises. Online learning platforms usually develop additional SQL practice courses and prepare special packages meant to review various concepts. Our SQL Practice Set has a comprehensive array of SQL problems for you to solve.

This method has an advantage over the previous one: immediate feedback. When you build your own project, no one is in charge of reviewing it. Of course, you can upload it on GitHub and ask for community comments, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get them. By contrast, when you practice SQL queries using a course, you get feedback on your answers. (If the course is interactive, you’ll get feedback immediately!). It makes learning much more effective.

Data scientists also recommend practicing SQL queries before your first day at any database-related job. Why?

First, your team leaders will require real skills, not promises. You’ll need to prove that they hired the right person, that your knowledge is sufficient for the job. For that, you need strong skills. The only way to grow them is by hands-on practice.

Another reason is that there are concepts that are hardly mentioned in beginner courses. As they’re not thoroughly explained, you’re likely to forget them. An additional SQL practice set will help you keep them in mind. If it turns out that you need them at your SQL job, you’ll surely dive deeper, but it’s good to have some basic knowledge first.

What to Review Before Your Job Starts

Your additional SQL practice should cover the most widely-used query concepts. While it’s true that companies apply data science in various ways (which translates into the specifics of their database operations), some topics are common to all entry-level database-related jobs:

  • Filtering data (SELECT, WHERE).
  • Aggregation and grouping (GROUP BY, ORDER BY, HAVING).
  • Working with multiple tables (JOIN, LEFT JOIN, etc.).
  • Subqueries.

It’s possible that your beginner course covered additional topics, but these are the ones you’ll likely use in any entry-level SQL job. We’ve included them in our SQL Practice Set.

The First Day at Your New SQL Job

As I mentioned earlier, coming in prepared is the best way to fight pre-job stress. Practice will make you more confident, which also makes a good first impression.

However, you should know one thing. Even if you practice SQL queries for hours, you’ll probably make mistakes on your first day. That’s because even the best SQL practice set is not crafted for your industry and will not foresee its specific use cases.

When mistakes happen, your attitude is crucial. In programming, always treat failure as feedback. Mistakes are good teachers. Experts say that our brain remembers negative feedback better. In terms of learning, making mistakes is better than doing simple exercises perfectly.

If possible, always ask experienced developers for advice. They’re likely to tell you something that wasn’t covered in your beginner-level SQL course.

As a programming novice, you may be unaware of this truth: Every developer uses Google. Every single one – but especially entry-level programmers. It’s absolutely normal to forget something or encounter a situation that cannot be resolved based on what you ‘usually’ do.

Do You still use Google

The good news is that you’ll find the answers to most of your questions on the Internet. (You’re familiar with Stack Overflow, right?) To save time, you can also rely on cheat sheets and similar resources. At LearnSQL.com, we provide you with a complete library of SQL cookbooks – short articles that quickly demonstrate different SQL operations (e.g. finding maximum values in rows, concatenating strings, creating primary keys, etc.). Feel free to copy these SQL queries and use them in your projects.

Also, it’s a good practice to check queries several times to verify that they work as expected. Again, this is very important in the first weeks of your new SQL job. Such testing can identify most problems before you show your work to your colleagues. It’s better to be safe than sorry! 😉

One last thing about your first day at a new SQL job: don’t hesitate to experiment. To become a SQL master, you need to leave your comfort zone and look for unconventional solutions. You won’t be a beginner all your life. Higher data science positions are within your reach – but to achieve them, you’ll need to keep learning.

Programming as a profession requires constant progress. Technologies change, mid-level and senior positions require more knowledge, etc. If you stick to the solutions you know and don’t explore any further, your progress will be slow.

Good Luck!

I hope that this article helped you understand that:

  • Becoming proficient in programming takes time and requires practice.
  • SQL skills are made, not born.
  • It’s best to complete some SQL practice before your first day at a database-related job.
  • IT and data science are really beginner-friendly environments, so don't be afraid to ask your colleagues for help.
  • You’re likely to make mistakes at first. Don’t be afraid of them; they help you learn faster.
  • If you get stuck, look for the answer on the Internet or in our SQL cookbooks.

I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the first day of your SQL job. I’m sure you’ll rock!

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