5 Tips for Starting a New Job
For those of you who don’t already know I started a full-time software engineering job in New York City in February. There was a lot of adjusting and learning to do but I found that these five tips really helped make the prospect of starting a new job a little less terrifying.
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1.Don’t limit yourself to what feels “comfortable”
When you’re new EVERYTHING is uncomfortable and sometimes the comfortable part of the day is sitting at your desk doing the “fake it til you make it”. Don’t let yourself stay there. The first few weeks of the job are when you don’t yet have the full responsibilities of a veteran which means you have time to talk to people, meet new people, explore your workplace, and ask lots of questions. It also means you’ll have time to do those little things like getting your 401k set up, figuring out your health insurance, and getting your commuter benefits. You’ll soon become so busy these things might slip through the cracks but they’re important to do right away so you can take full advantage of all the benefits your company offers.
Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is one of the best things you can do because guess what? Even if you make a mistake - nobody will hold it against you since you’re new! This will not last long because nobody is new forever so take this opportunity to be brave and push yourself. Plus whatever mistakes you make in your first few weeks will be one more mistake you can avoid making down the line. People always say “fail fast” and this is definitely true in a new job. Your initial “failures” won’t be considered failures but rather learning opportunities.
2. Meet as many people as you can
Contrary to what you’d think - in my experience you end up meeting the most people in your first few weeks. You have time to go to tech talks and after work drinks and you’ll have lots of spare time for lunch and coffee chats with new people. Although the pace might feel “slow” at the beginning, make the most of it by investing in social capital - aka the network of people you want to build around yourself in the workplace.
People tend to go to extra lengths to make room in their schedule for newbies which isn’t always going to be the case when things get busy. Take advantage of this and grab lunch with new people and get to know them and their role in the company! Soon your work responsibilities will ramp up and you’ll be spending the majority of your time with your team. Having friends in a different department or on a different team will help you keep some sanity in the future and is always a great opportunity to learn about what other people are up to.
When meeting and talking to new people remember to be thinking about who might be a good mentor. Mentorship doesn’t have to be a formal arrangement and keeping an eye out for potential mentors when you first start a job will be helpful when you’re building relationships.
3. Ask LOTS of questions
I cannot stress this one enough. And yes, I know society has told us asking questions can be bad if they’re not the “right” ones but if you wait 6 months to ask a question you had on day 2 people are going to give you some funny looks. Think of it as a superpower that’s going to slowly fade away. While you’re new you can ask all the questions you want, but it’s not going to last forever.
*This being said, my definition of a “bad” question is one that you could have looked up the answer to. If there’s someplace like an internal bulletin, your orientation booklet, employee handbook, or Google where you can look-up your question then do that first! It’s a good exercise to try to find the answer before you ask someone so that you don’t waste their time.
4. Take notes on everything - (always carry a notebook even to coffee chats)
I live by this rule because no matter how good your memory is how many times have you had someone recommend a book title only to forget it by the time the conversation is over? My guess is a lot. Carrying around a physical pen and paper allows you take notes of things you’ll want to remember. Plus, people don’t feel offended if you’re jotting notes in a notebook whereas taking notes on your phone can come across as disrespectful and like you’re not paying attention.
I find it helpful to always write down people’s names and a little about what we talked about. It’s similar to an interview but you’re going to continue seeing these people so it’s good to keep a little record to jog your memory in the future. Science also shows that we are more likely to remember things when we write them down so this tip does double duty.
Another thing to write down is all of the set-up you’ll have to do. If you had questions that you couldn’t find in a handbook or ran into a problem getting your coding environment set-up be sure to write it down. These details tend to be forgotten with time and you could save someone in the future a lot of time if you document the steps you took as a newbie. My teammates started coming to me with questions when they had to set up some things because it’d been a while since they had to do it but it was fresh in my mind (and notebook).
5. Be ready to fake it til you make it - write down a goals and accomplishments list everyday
I know it’s a cliche but sometimes cliches are cliche for a reason. For me it always takes a good few weeks until I feel like I really know what I’m doing. Until then I at least pretend like I know what I’m doing - and not in a bad way like someone asked me to do something really important and I just say yes without asking any questions. If you’ve watched The Devil Wears Prada there’s the first time Andy gets called into Miranda’s office and she doesn’t write anything down (See #4!!) and has no clue what to do. The best way to learn is to start DOING stuff! Don’t shy away from doing things just because you’re new - sometimes being thrown into the deep end really is the best way to figure things out.
Whether you’re starting a new internship or a full-time job I hope you found these 5 tips helpful! For more weekly lifestyle, coding, and career advice you can follow me on Instagram or Facebook. Stay tuned for my next post about getting to know your teammates when you’re new!