I am currently a Software Engineering apprentice, I am through 1 of 4 years at a company doing development where I'm supposed to be learning as I go.

However, I am not performing/improving at all. Or if so at an incredibly slow rate compared to other apprentices, things aren't clicking with me or if they do they take an extraordinary amount of effort to understand (days).

This is really affecting my mental health as I consider myself a fairly normal person who is intelligent. Yet I am going nowhere. My concerns are:

  • I'm not 'cut out' to be an engineer/programmer after having a good grasp on the basics and theory knowledge but barely producing any work unless I have lots of help on simple things.
  • That I don't deserve to be in the job I'm in because there are people (feels like everyone) who are natural programmers/engineers and they would thrive in this position whereas I am pretty much a waste of company money as far as my output is concerned.
  • That because of this, I have chosen the wrong career (I know nothing different and love computing and software) and therefore won't even be worth entry level positions in companies once I finish my apprenticeship.

This is haunting me everyday to the point where I just want to cry at my desk or I'm losing routine and control in my life outside of work in regards to not caring about my responsibilities because I feel like I'm not going anywhere.

Does my current state make me eligible for counselling with it being related to my career, if I do get this counselling is there any obligation for my employer to co-operate with the schedule of said counselling? I am 18 years old and have a heavy focus on my career and finances (I don't go out partying etc). With this being the one thing in life I'm focused on and not going well at all I'm trying to seek professional help to sort it.

  • Does your workplace fund other medical conditions? In most places you have your own medical aid for that (which your employer may or may not have taken out for you). Usually you need at most a doctor's note for medical leave, but you'll need to check what your company policy says. Mar 9, 2018 at 15:26
  • So you feel that you're not improving. Are you, then, practicing every waking moment? Are you completing online tutorials? Have you signed up to sites such as Plural Sight and started consuming content in an effort to better yourself? An honest effort to actually succeed should precede counseling. The solution is not to run off and talk about your self doubt with someone, it's to face your fears and do something about them.
    – AndreiROM
    Mar 9, 2018 at 16:04
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    If workplaces gave time off to everyone suffering self-doubt then they would be short staffed and only have narcissistic psychopaths left in the office...
    – HorusKol
    Mar 9, 2018 at 16:15
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    @AndreiROM Therapy can be helpful even for people who have problems they can solve themselves, and could help motivate you to solve said problems or help you find a way to solve them. Trying to practise every waking moment would probably lead to more stress and quickly lead to burnout - people need time to unwind. Mar 9, 2018 at 16:26
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    @AndreiROM "Therapy can be helpful even for people who have problems they can solve themselves". Therapy is not some shameful last resort. Mar 9, 2018 at 16:49

1 Answer 1


First things first: How much programming have you done before starting this apprenticeship? Did you play around with programming simple games when you were a kid? Or is this literally your first year of any kind of serious programming?

I ask because one year is not a long time, so I wouldn't expect you to be that efficient at it yet. You yourself say that you're expected to learn on the job - learning takes time. If you're not hearing complaints, I wouldn't worry too much about it.

Does my current state make me eligible for counselling with it being related to my career, if I do get this counselling is there any obligation for my employer to co-operate with the schedule of said counselling?

I expect this is a matter of company policy. You should ask someone - your boss, maybe HR - what the policy is regarding such counselling.

Without knowing your location I can't really speak to what your company might be legally obligated to do in this situation, but legal questions are discouraged on this site anyway. If you want to know that kind of thing, I'd suggest finding a lawyer in your area.

I'm trying to seek professional help to sort it.

If you really feel that you need this sort of help, I would encourage you to seek it out regardless of what the company's answers to your questions are. Even if your company won't cooperate on scheduling, I expect the counselor would.

Don't feel ashamed if you find yourself looking up how to do things on Google. Programming languages are vast and complicated, and they're changing rapidly. No one can keep up with it, and no one expects you to (or if they do, that may be a sign of a toxic workplace.) Googling for answers is a very common tool, from my own experience in the industry. Even ten years on, I still Google stuff regularly.

In software development there's also the concept of the "rubber ducky." Having another person (or even an inanimate object) that you can describe problems to and "talk them through" can help immensely in finding a solution. Often it's just one line of code that you're overlooking because it's so obvious. If you don't feel comfortable talking to a co-worker, try a literal rubber ducky.

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    As a developer myself, I can vouch for this advice. Whether you realise it or not, you've probably picked up more useful knowledge in your one year in an actual workplace than three or four years in university could provide.
    – user34587
    Mar 9, 2018 at 16:19
  • To the Google point.. I wouldn't hire a developer who didn't regularly search online to support their personal knowledge. Technology changes at a fast enough pace that if you aren't regularly doing this then your expertise will be obsolete within months.
    – user48276
    Mar 9, 2018 at 17:07
  • I'm UK. Studied IT in secondary school and in sixth-form, I would say I know a lot about computers and programming but don't think through/understand things well/quick. I am googling a lot but I start getting concerned when I've read every one of the first-page results on Google, gone to YouTube and watched all the relevant videos about it, asked a colleague at work to explain it to me multiple times and then when I still don't understand it I get very doubtful. Eg. Interfaces in OOP. Especially as all the other apprentices glided over this stuff and are now miles ahead of me.
    – user80664
    Mar 9, 2018 at 17:09