So you’ve finally landed a new job, or maybe you’ve hit the jackpot with a great internship — either way, it can be intimidating even after the interview. So today I want to offer a helpful guide for those just starting on their career path (although it can also help experienced professionals) based on my own work experience, time being mentored, and time mentoring others. Career paths are unique to each person and situation, and it’s invaluable to find the information that speaks to you and use it in a way that applies best for you. My hope is that anyone who reads this blog post is able to chart their career path according to their definition of success and accomplish their goals — let’s dig in!
Working Effectively With Your Team
Effective communication is vital to success, especially in today’s environments. Make sure that you communicate often with your team. Learn how each member of your team prefers to communicate — some people prefer email or instant messaging, while others prefer speaking in person. If your team often has lunch together, join them when you can. And If they don’t, maybe you can organize a team lunch periodically. Relaxed conversations can be an effective way to get to know your team better and further develop working relationships.
ASKING QUESTIONS THE RIGHT WAY
Being new to a team and its processes, you’re going to have questions. It’s expected by your teammates, and it’s a good thing — asking questions shows interest and action. But before you ask those questions, think about what you have done so far. Have you tried googling it? How about looking on Stack Overflow? If you’ve done that, great! What else have you done? If it’s a technical issue or a coding question, what have you tried so far? What were those results? One final question for you — have you asked this question before? Once you have these answers, you should be ready to ask your team, and when you do, include the information you just answered above. Your coworkers will appreciate that you’ve already made an effort, and it’s incredibly helpful for them to know the avenues you’ve already tried so they don’t do it themselves. This opens up the communication between you and your peers, and allows you to work together.
BRING NEW IDEAS & SUGGESTIONS
You are where you are for a reason, and your team believes that you can contribute to the company’s success. Use your fresh perspective to identify process improvements and ask questions about why things are done. This is not saying to challenge everything, but a fresh perspective can see routine activities in a new light. Sometimes they make sense, and sometimes, well, they don’t. If you have improvement ideas, share them because the goal here is to support the success of the team.
This one is pretty straightforward, but important nonetheless — take notes. When in meetings, take notes. When asking questions, take notes. When doing your work, take notes. When you have an idea, take notes. And don’t forget to keep up with your notes — you’ll refer to them more often than you might think.
CODING TIPS & VERSION CONTROL
When coding, add comments and follow style guidelines used by the team and/or industry. Why? This increases maintainability. It also means that if you’re on vacation and a change is needed, your team can refer to that in your absence, which makes it easier on everyone (and they’ll thank you for that). On top of that, use version control. If your team is not using version control, recommend it. When multiple people are contributing to the same source code, version control makes the process much easier. And one day you may move on, and your code will live on. When that happens, the new owner is going to appreciate the history of code changes offered by version control.
PARTICIPATE IN CODE REVIEWS
Code reviews are an opportunity to see how your teammates solve problems and to learn from their knowledge. They also present an opportunity to show your teammates how you approach and solve problems. And on top of all that, you’ll also collectively improve code readability, efficiency, and correctness — which results in higher code quality and maintainability. But keep in mind, while your code is being reviewed, leave your ego outside of the review. Use the feedback received to improve your skills — after all, that’s the whole point!
Maximizing Your Learning
Look for meetups or clubs at work or within your local community. Find something that’s relevant to your current position or career goals because these are great networking opportunities to improve your skills and explore interests. For example, some technology meetups offer lightning talks, which give you around three minutes to talk about some work you did and the experience you had. So if you were looking to learn Python and just went through a tutorial, you could give a lightning talk on that experience at a local Python group. It allows you to open up to the community, and you would likely have several people approach you afterwards offering to help with any questions that come up as you continue learning. Once you feel ready, offer to contribute to the community by giving talks or tutorials. This can be great practice for conferences, and it’s the perfect way to grow your network.
Attending conferences offers more networking opportunities and exploration of interests. In many cases, conferences offer you access to industry leaders and a chance to pick their brains. If your employer supports attending conferences, find relevant ones to attend. If not, check out financial aid provided by the conferences, and if you speak at one, they often cover expenses. Regardless of any incentives, submit proposals — people can benefit from your experiences, but only if you are willing to share them. Sharing your experiences encourages others to reciprocate, and that can lead to improving your knowledge.
FIND A MENTOR
A mentor should be a person who can help you with your career goals and aspirations, and provide you with advice from their own experiences. Work with your mentor to determine how often to meet — a good start could be meeting once a month or once a quarter. However often you decide to meet, be sure to use your time with them effectively. This is your time to ask questions and gain as much knowledge as you can. It can be incredibly helpful to the caliber of work you’re doing and make you a better professional overall.
Starting a new job is always a learning experience, but by being a good co-worker and peer to your team, you can all work together toward the goal of the company.