A Guide to Starting a New Job as a Software Developer

You’re about to start a new job as a software developer. Well done!

In this guide, you’ll learn what to expect, what to do on your first day, and how to improve when starting a new job.

What to Bring on Your First Day

So, when you get ready for your first day at work, you might not know what to bring. Sure, you may have spoken to the recruitment person or your manager before starting, who may have told you where to meet them and at what time. However, they may not have told you what to bring. Even if you ask them, they might tell you a couple of things to bring, but not everything. They might not have even told you at all.

I’ve put this short list together of a few things that you can bring to your first day of work to make it easier for you.


Pen and Paper Notebook

The most important thing that I think you should bring on your first day of work is a pen and a notebook. This is because you’ll be taking a lot of notes for the day and need to have somewhere to write down your ideas and questions.

If you’re the kind of person that prefers to write notes on the computer, using Notepad or Evernote or Microsoft Word, then that’s OK. It’s still a good idea to take electronic notes.

But what if you don’t have a computer on the first day? What if it doesn’t have your software on it? What if you have a computer but are away from your desk in meetings for the morning?

There needs to be an easy and portable way that you can take notes. You can always transfer your notes to an electronic form when it’s available.

You also may be shown where the stationery cupboard or section is if one exists in your building or floor. This is helpful as it could contain notebooks, pens, highlighters, and other stationery. However, this tour might not happen first thing in the morning, and you might need to take notes before that. Having your own pen and paper will let you do this.

You can use your journey into work to take notes, if you’re able to and if there’s anything you can write down. Bringing in your own notebook will allow you to do this.


Lunch and Snack Food

Food is important – it gives us the energy to get through the day. While your eating habits and tastes may be different from others, I recommend bringing some of your own food in for the first day. There are a few reasons for this.

First of all, your new workplace may be different from other environments you’ve been at in the past. There might not be the same food or facilities you’ve had before. If you’re used to a fruit basket or vending machines or a café in the same building, you might have to adjust if these are not available.

Secondly, you might not get a chance to get away from your work to get some food. Depending on the role you’re doing, you might have a few meetings or group discussions on in the morning, which may overlap your normal morning tea time or breakfast, for example. This could ruin your concentration in the morning.

Finally, the lunch culture might be different from what you’re used to. This is quite a tricky one to predict. Do you bring your own lunch in case there is nowhere to eat, or do you bring money so you can go out with your team? To play it safe, you can do both. Bring your own lunch in case that’s what everyone else does, or if you can’t get out to a lunch venue. However, bring some money as well, in case your team insists on taking you out to lunch. You don’t want to be caught with no cash on your first day to pay for your lunch.


Drink Bottle for Water

It’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day. This is especially true for people who work in an office, who sit down for most of the day and may not realise the effects of not drinking enough water.

Bring your own water bottle to work on the first day. You’ll be able to fill it up with water from the kitchen and leave it at your desk to drink. It will save you time and money from buying your own water at work, or trying to find a cup or glass to use. It’s just one less thing you need to worry about when you get to work.

If you’ve got your own water bottle, you can fill it up when you need to, and drink it to keep yourself feeling fresh throughout the day.


Your First Day

You really want to do well on your first day.

The first day isn’t that hard to get through. There are a few things you can do, though, to make sure it goes well, and to set yourself up for a great future with your company.


Make Sure You’re Well Rested

Getting a good night’s sleep the night before your first day is one of the most important things you can do before starting a new job. The body functions better when it’s well rested. Getting enough sleep the night before will ensure you’re more focused and feeling better for your first day.

The exact number of hours of sleep you should have will vary for each person. Some people are OK with six hours, some people need eight. You should get the amount of sleep that works for you. For me, seven is about right, but find whatever works for you.

You want to feel sharp and focused on your first day. One of the best ways to do this is to get enough sleep.


Arrive A Little Early For Your First Day

It’s a good idea to get to work early for your first day of a new IT job. This shows you’re enthusiastic, organised, and prepared. Getting there 10-15 minutes early is fine. It’s early enough to be prepared.

It’s also a good idea to consider delays to your travel as well.

You might have already visited the workplace and know how to get there, from when you had a job interview. However, getting there for work time may be a different story. Circumstances may be different. It could be a different time of day, it could be a peak period for working (e.g. not during school holidays). There are many factors that can cause you to be late to work, even though you may have been there before.


Dress Professionally

Just because you have the job now, and the interview is over, doesn’t mean that you can slack off on the dress code and appearance.

It’s still a good idea to dress professionally.

The interviewer should have provided you with the dress code (it’s also a good idea to ask during an interview, or after you’ve accepted the job offer). Being aware of the dress code helps when getting ready in the morning.

There’s more to looking professional than what you wear, though. Make sure you’re groomed (clean shaven or trimmed). If you’ve got a beard, that’s fine, just make sure it’s neat and not scruffy. Do your hair and make yourself look presentable. Look as though you’re going for another interview. You are, in a way. You need to impress those you’re working with on the first day.


Try To Remember Names Of People You Meet

This is a tough one. I’m still suggesting it though.

You’ll be meeting a lot of people on your first day. People in your team, people in other teams, your manager, their manager. It’s hard to keep track of who’s who, especially when it’s all happening so quickly and all on the first day. You might have met some of them already at conferences, or may know of them on LinkedIn or other places, but if not, you’ll have to remember them.

It can be forgiven if you forget people’s names at the start. However, it’s better to remember them. Try to commit their name to memory when you are introduced to them. Write them down, when you get a moment. Write down everyone you meet today, as well as something about them to remember. Not embarrassing or personal, perhaps their job title or where they are sitting.

I usually try to diagram the team structure when I get introduced to the team. I write down the manager and everyone who is underneath them, as it’s usually my own team who I speak to on day one.


Do Your Homework

A good way to make a great impression on day one is to know about the company and what it does. Know about what the issues are, what it does to make money, who the clients or products are.

Learn about the company before you start there, so you can be more informed about the issues that it faces.

Doing research on the company is something you could have done during the interview phase, but some time may have passed since then. You should also know who the main people are, such as the CEO or founder. You might not be able to find out who the other roles are before you start, but knowing who runs the company is a good start.


Take Lots Of Notes

The first day of an IT job is all about meeting people and learning things.

You’ll be learning a lot about the company, about the products and services it offers, about the systems, the people, the job requirements, the team, current projects, and history.

It’s a lot to take in.

I suggest taking lots of notes. Bring a pen and paper (don’t rely on them to be provided). Use these to take notes. Write everything down.

Don’t worry about the speaker feeling awkward about you taking notes. They will realise you’re taking notes and will slow down for you, in most cases. They were there once, too, so they know what it’s like to need to take a lot of notes on the first day.

You can go through your notes when you have spare time. They can also be used to come up with questions to ask and ideas, or to refer back to when designing the part of the system you’re working on.


Understand The Team Structure

Part of remembering who you meet is learning who is in your team.

Software professionals usually work in teams. There’s usually a team leader or a project manager involved. It’s a good idea to understand how the team structure works.

  • Who’s the manager?
  • What’s the team called?
  • Who’s in the team?
  • Do you work under a project manager or a team leader?
  • Is there a separate project manager?
  • Where is the team located? Are there any team members in other locations (cities, countries)?
  • Who is your manager’s manager?

Learn the structure of your team, as well as the wider team. This means everyone from your manager’s manager down.

For example, you might be a Junior Java Developer. Your manager’s title could be “Development Team Leader”, who has three other developers in his team. Their manager may be “General Manager, Billing System”, and may have several other team leaders below them such as “Support Team Leader” and “Testing Team Leader”. It’s good to know how the wider team is structured so you can do your job easier.


Don’t Worry If The Job Description Is A Little Different

If you’ve got the job and you’re expecting to do exactly what was on the ad, but there are some differences, don’t worry too much about it. Many companies tend to over-promote their description, making it sound better than it really is. They shouldn’t be flat-out lying, it just might be a little different.

In other cases, the job description may not even have been filled out by a technical person. It might have been filled out by someone in HR, or it could be a generic or old position which doesn’t quite match.

Try not to worry too much about it. You’ve got a job, you’ve been given the chance to make a good impression, and if all goes well, you’ll move on to better things in the future.

We all have to start somewhere. My first role was in application support, working on old legacy systems. It wasn’t glamorous, but I learnt a lot of things from my time there, which made it worthwhile.


Don’t Be Afraid To Follow Up With People

The first day of a new job can be quite frantic. A lot of things need to be organised in the company to get you to start. Sometimes it’s simple, and sometimes it’s not.

Security access passes, computer hardware and software, documentation, meetings and other files are all things that might need to be provided to you so you can do your job on the first day. Your manager, or someone else in the company, may have said they would organise a new laptop for you, or provide you with the required documentation. Some time may pass and you might not get what you need.

The best thing to do here is to follow up politely. Ask the person who mentioned it what’s happening with it, if it’s still being provided. Understand they may be busy with their work, or something else may have happened. However, you shouldn’t be afraid to follow up with them, just because you’re the new person. Take the initiative to ask them how it’s going. They may have just forgotten and would appreciate the reminder.


Learn Your Manager’s Style

Everybody works in different ways. The way you work could be different from your coworkers and your manager. This also depends on office culture.

A good thing to do on your first day is to find out what your managers working style is like. Do they like to come in early and leave early, or do they come in later and leave later? Do they work extended hours because they’re in meetings all day? Do they take an extended lunch?

Ask your manager what their preferred method of communication is, or how you should get in touch with them. Should you approach them? Is email better, so they can read and respond when it’s convenient? Is a phone call better?

Learning all of these things is a good way to make your first day, week, and first job overall, more effective.


Take Time To Be Yourself

Getting started in a new job can be a big adjustment. It’s tough to start working with new people and getting to know them. It’s also hard sometimes for others to bring people in and get them working with the team.

Making a good first impression and doing the right things at work should be at the top of your list. Given this is the case, you should take your time to be yourself at work. If you’re a loud person, or like to tell jokes, or have other qualities that some people may not like, it’s a good idea to not release them on the first day.

While I am a supporter of being yourself, it’s also important to be considerate of others. While people in other jobs, or your friends, may appreciate your singing at your desk or your jokes, other people may not, if they haven’t gotten to know you yet. So, get to know people a bit first before you relax into this.


Ask Questions

One of the things you’ll be doing a lot on your first day is asking a lot of questions. In between meeting people and taking notes, of course.

Asking questions is one of the best ways to find out more about your job and what the company does. You’ll probably have a million questions on your first day. I know I do when I start new roles.

Don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions. I’ve always thought it’s better to ask stupid questions than make stupid mistakes. If you’re not sure about something, ask it. Nobody cares that the new guy asks a lot of questions. They almost expect it. So you can feel free to ask as many questions as you need to make sure you understand what is going on. Especially with so many acronyms in the industry. It can be hard to know what people talk about sometimes.

Make sure you write down the answers, too, so you can refer back to them later and avoid asking them again.


Be Slow To Make Friends

It’s important to get along with people at work. Get to know your coworkers, what they like doing, their personalities and how they handle themselves at work.

However, it’s a good idea to avoid making too good a friend with someone very early on in your role. I mean, you can make friends with people, but just do it at a slower pace and not to one person in particular.

Try to be on friendly terms with many people, to avoid the tag of being clingy or sticking to a certain few people. It’s good to spread around and get to know all kinds of people and be slow at becoming friends with people at work.


Set Up An Email Signature

Once you know what your role is, your team name, and have your desk set up, you should go ahead and create an email signature.

An email signature is a must-have for anyone working with emails. It lets others know who you are, provides them with contact information, and looks professional.

Set one up as soon as you can. Some companies have special formats or standards. A good way to save time is to get one of your coworkers to send you an email with their signature. You could then copy it, change the details, and make it your own. This would only work if it’s a general signature, for the team.


Don’t Complain

Nobody likes a complainer. It brings on negative thoughts and doesn’t make the team any happier. Try to avoid complaining at work on your first day.

This includes large and small things. Complaining about the traffic or public transport system, the messy kitchen, the terribly designed software systems, the slow computers, anything like that will not look good on you. Other people will be aware of these issues, and if you complain about it, it just gives off a bad impression. Try to stay positive, and if you must complain, complain to a friend or partner after work about it – not at work.

The positivity that is shown at your office will give a good impression of you to others – both your manager and your team.

Well, there’s a list of things that all software professionals should do on their first day on the job. What other suggestions do you have? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.


Your First Week Starting a New Job

There are a few things to expect during your first week.

Site Induction

Most offices should offer a site induction. This is essentially a tour of the office and of the building, where someone points out things like the safety exits, facilities, lifts, and other services.

This can be done by a central team, or perhaps your manager does this. It could involve a large group of people who are all starting at the same time, or it could be as small as you and your manager. Either way, a tour of the office usually happens.

You get to find out where the kitchen is, where the photocopier is, bathrooms, notable employees’ desks, stationery cupboards, and anything else that could be helpful to your job.


Your Manager May Not Be Around To Help

Your manager will probably greet you on the first day and show you what you need to do, and who to talk to. You’ll probably get introduced to a few team members, and have a few meetings lined up, depending on your role.

However, unlike other roles you may have had in IT or other industries, your manager might not be always around. If you’ve worked in a restaurant, a shop, or a call centre, your manager may have been around quite a lot. They could have answered your questions when you had them, offered guidance and advice on how to do your job.

In the IT industry, your manager might not be available for these things. He or she may have a lot of meetings to attend, or work in different offices, or have a lot of other work to do. During the first week, it’s helpful to find out when your manager is available and how they can be approached if you need assistance. It’s just something to get used to.


Lots Of Documentation To Read

During your first week, you’ll be taking a lot of time to “get up to speed”, or in other words, learn how everything works. This is usually done in a few ways:

  • Discussions with more senior team members
  • Speaking to people in other teams
  • Observing systems or processes first hand
  • Reading documentation

The first three items involve other people, and as a result, may not be possible all of the time. The final way to learn about new systems and processes is to read the documentation.

User guides, support manuals, technical documentation and design documents are all kinds of documentation you might get handed during your first week. Expect to spend a lot of time reading and understanding documentation. If it’s kept up to date (and it should be), then it should be quite useful in helping you learn about the environment.

You can also read documentation about the company. If there is a company Intranet or internal documentation system, find out where they store their internal documentation and if any of it can be helpful to you. Processes, organisation charts, and other similar information can be useful to read in your first week.


Improving After Your First Week

You’ve started a new job and you really want to do well. Impress your boss, learn a lot, and get great results at work by following these tips on how to improve at a new job.

You’ve started a new job and you really want to do well. Impress your boss, learn a lot, and get great results at work by following these tips on how to improve at a new job.


Work Out Where You Can Improve

One of the first things you should do when looking to improve at work is to work out how you can improve. This might seem obvious or seem like the same thing, but at this point, I’m focusing on the “where” rather than the “how”.

Working out where you can improve will lead to working out how you can improve.

Take some time to think about what areas of your job you’re good at and what areas that you’re not so good at. This should be an honest assessment and might take an hour or so to put together.

Some areas you can consider are:

  • Emails – am I writing good emails? Are they too long? Am I using them correctly?
  • Coding – do I write good quality code that does the job in the best way? Do I produce code that has a relatively low number of errors? Do I follow good habits?
  • Documentation – am I writing helpful documentation? Is it up to date? Is it easy to understand?
  • Testing – am I creating tests that cover all required scenarios? Am I running the right tests at the right times?
  • Communication – do I communicate with team members and other people well? Am I comfortable with explaining things? Am I a good listener?
  • Comprehension – do I understand topics well? Do I learn things fast and correctly?
  • Meetings – Am I going to the right meetings? Do I take useful notes and keep to the topic of the meeting?

If you identify areas you don’t think you are as strong in, that’s a good sign. You can then work out how to improve them.


Speak To Your Manager About How To Improve

Another great tip for how to improve at a new job is to speak to your manager.

Your manager is responsible for many things, and one of which is monitoring staff performance. They should be able to give you some feedback on what you’re good at and what you can improve on.

This would depend on how long you’ve been at the company for and how closely you’ve been working with the team. If you’ve been there for a few days, it can be hard for your manager to tell what you can improve on. If you’ve been there for a bit longer, say a month or two, it should be more useful for you.

Ask them that you’re interested in improving how you go about your work and if there’s anything they can suggest that you might need to work on. Mention that they don’t need to provide feedback then and there, as it could take some time for them to think of something.

When they eventually respond, try to stay positive with the feedback. Remember, you asked for it, and it’s for your benefit, so don’t get defensive or personal. Thank them for the feedback as well.


Find Problems To Solve

Being a new person at the company has benefits. One of those is the ability to look at things from a different perspective and experience. Often you’re working with people who have been there for some time, and as a result, they are locked into a certain way of doing things.

Coming into a company as a new starter can be a good way to find problems to solve. You get to see how the company and the team do things, and you can use the fact you’re uneducated about their process and systems to ask questions they may never have heard. You can also offer up other solutions and find problems that are not visible to others.

This is a great way to benefit both the company and the team you work in.


Be a Great Team Member

A good way of improving in your new job is just to be a great team member. Everyone loves a good team player, and working in the IT industry is almost always done in a team.

Improving the way you work in a team can be done in many ways:

  • Improving team morale by having conversations with the team and getting to know them
  • Helping the team out when they ask questions
  • Coming up with better ways to do things in the team
  • Sharing useful resources, such as tools or websites
  • Fitting in with the team – team activities, attitude, arrival and departure times

These kinds of activities should be done in a selfless way. That is, you shouldn’t be doing them just to get praise or admiration from others. You should be focusing on the team and how you can benefit them.


Learn About The Company

When you’re new to the job, there is so much to learn. A great method for how to improve at a new job is just to learn about the company. There are many things you should know about your employer, but some of them can take time and others are suited to later in your career.

Some of the things you can learn about your company are:

  • What the long-term strategy is for the company
  • Who the senior managers are, and all the managers between them and you
  • Who are the biggest clients or customers, and other companies that we are involved with
  • Recent press or mentions in the news, either positive or negative

Learning these things will make you a better worker, able to understand the bigger picture, and relate to others at work. This can make you feel like part of the team and improve other people’s impressions of you!


18 More Things You Should Know

There are a few other things you should know before starting your first day, which aren’t mentioned above.

1 – The Days Can Be Long

Finishing a Computer Science degree will often lead you into a software development-related role. There are usually standard hours for this kind of role, which is something like 9 AM to 5 PM. The actual hours may be slightly different, but in general, it’s an 8 hour day.

That’s a long time to be at work if you’re new to the industry. If you’re coming from college or university, you may have had a part-time job, where you worked a few hours at the local grocery store or in a cafe or something.

Coming into a role in software development is different. You’ll be in an office. You’ll be sitting down. And you’ll be there for about 8 hours each day.

This is something I didn’t really consider when I started working. Sure, 8 hours may not seem like much, but when you’re sitting down for most of it, you can get pretty tired pretty quickly.

Also, it requires a lot of concentration. University classes are broken up into blocks and often have breaks. The day doesn’t always go for 8 hours at university, either.

So, it might not be something you are used to. The days may seem long.

You’ll get used to them though.

My part-time job in uni was in a restaurant. I found it hard going from a job where I was walking around all the time to a job where I was sitting down all day. But I got used to it.


2 – Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions

Being a graduate and starting a job means you’re new to the job and new to the industry. People have lower expectations of graduates than other employees.

So, if you’re not sure what to do, ask someone. If you’re not sure what something means, or how something works, ask someone.

You shouldn’t be afraid of asking questions. Everyone in the workplace was new at one stage, so they know what it’s like. They may know the kind of questions you want to ask and the struggles you might have.

If you have a question, ask someone. Ask your manager, ask a co-worker, ask someone you see around in the kitchen. People will usually be happy to help, especially if they know you’re new.

I still ask questions at work when I don’t know what something is. It’s much better to ask a “stupid” question than to make a stupid mistake (even though I don’t think any question is stupid). It’s a great way to improve at a new job.


3 – If You Have Nothing To Do, Ask For More

Your manager’s role at work is, among many things, to monitor your workload. They will give you tasks to do for the project or team that you’re in.

If you get to a point where you finish the work they have given you, then you have nothing to do. In this situation, ask for more work. Don’t sit there without work to do and browse the Internet aimlessly, or play with your phone.

Ask your manager for something else to do. They may not be aware that you’ve run out of work or that you’ve finished it.

They may also want to review what you’ve done. So, if you need to, you can show it to them, or send the work to them to review.

The point of asking for more is to show initiative, and show that you are there to get the job done and help the team, not to slack off until 5 PM arrives.


4 – Programming In The Real World Is Not Like College

You would have done some programming in college as part of your degree. When you write code, they would have taught you to do some design at the start, and then build your program from there. You would perform tests, compile the code, find an issue, fix it, and repeat.

It would usually move pretty quickly, and the only constraints would be how much effort you wanted to put in. You were often working on it by yourself, so if you wanted to work late to fix something, you could. You could add in any features or designs that you wanted.

Now, in the “real world” of working as a programmer, it works quite differently.

You usually start with the requirements which are provided to you by the business analysts, who get those from the users. The BA’s document them in a way that makes sense for the team, such as in user stories or a BRD.

From there, you, as a developer, would analyse them and see if they make sense to you. If they do, you can build them. If not, then you’ll need to clarify them.

After your requirements have been confirmed, you would them start some kind of design. This is done all at the same time, or in stages, depending on the methodology that your team uses.

At some point during the design phase, you may need to estimate how long it would take to build it. In many projects I’ve been on, this is one of the hardest parts to do. The estimate needs to be realistic but can be hard given that you don’t know what you don’t know.

Once the work has been estimated, it may need to be approved by the project sponsors, to basically say “yes, we are happy with this and wish to proceed”.

From there, you would start the actual development.

Because you’re in a team, you have less control over what you can do with it. You’ll need to stick to the requirements that are provided, but any changes or suggestions you have would need to be confirmed with other people.

If something takes more time than you thought, you may need to put in overtime, or the project team may make a decision to not add that functionality in.

So, basically, it’s not all up to you to do the development, as you’re part of a team, and there are other people paying for the project who specify the requirements.


5 – Keep a To-Do List

I started in the IT industry in an application development and support role. It started pretty smoothly, but as I got more experienced, I found I had more work to do and more things to look after. I tried keeping track of things I needed to do, with limited success.

Now, one of the most important things I do at work is maintaining a to-do list. It’s also one of the first things I set up when I go to a new client site.

The realisation for this was when I read “How To Get Things Done” by David Allen. He teaches a principle called “Getting Things Done”, or GTD for short. Basically, it involves keeping a written list of everything you need to do, instead of keeping it in your head.

This book and the GTD concept has probably been the most important concept I’ve learnt throughout my career. It’s helped me be more productive in my work and in my life overall.

So, when you get started at a new job, keep a list of things you need to do.

You can do this by:

  • Pen and notebook
  • Evernote list
  • Specific to-do app on your phone
  • Some other method

It doesn’t matter how you keep a to-do list, the important thing is that you actually keep one. It will improve the way you work, and impress your new team with how organised you are.


6 – Don’t Take Too Long On Your Breaks

As part of working full time, you’ll probably get an allocated time to take a lunch break. The actual time depends on the company, but I’ve usually been able to take a lunch break of up to one hour, at any time between 12 PM and 2 PM.

If you’re new to the IT industry, it can be hard to stick to this time, especially if you came from college. College is a bit more relaxed, where you may have skipped a few classes, or had a three-hour break for lunch between classes.

With the workplace, it’s a bit different. You’re part of a team that depends on you working and getting things done. It’s also not setting a good impression if you take a lunch break longer than the recommended time.

My lunch breaks are between 30 and 45 minutes, depending on if I need to make phone calls or run errands for the day.


7 – Be Careful What You Say and Talk About

Working full time in the IT industry is different to working part-time or studying at college in many respects.

One area where it’s different is what you can say and what you talk about.

You might have felt comfortable talking about anything with your friends in college, or co-workers at your part-time job. You could have talked about how drunk you got on the weekend, the crazy things you did, or other aspects of your life.

When you start working full time, there are some topics that are not appropriate to talk about at work.

It’s not usually a good idea to talk about getting drunk or your massive parties on the weekend. It’s also not a good idea to talk about people of the opposite sex in an offensive or discriminatory way. You should also respect other people’s race, religion, and culture.

Some things that you might have said around your friends or other co-workers are just not appropriate in the workplace.

You might already know this, but it’s good to be safe.


8 – You Won’t Get Paid Overtime

A part-time job in college usually meant that you have a set number of hours you work, and you get paid an hourly rate. Any extra time after that and you’d get overtime.

This is generally how it works, but it depends on the job you have.

In the IT industry, you don’t get paid overtime. You are expected to work the minimum hours, of course, but when the need arises, you’re also expected to put in extra time.

This is all covered under your salary, so you don’t get paid extra for the additional hours you do.

This might seem unfair. Why would you put in extra hours if you don’t get paid for it?

Well, there are a few reasons:

  • A project deadline is approaching
  • There’s an issue in a live system that needs fixing
  • You’ve found something takes longer than expected and you’re already behind

So, if you’re expecting to get paid for extra hours, then you probably won’t be. The only exception is if you’re in some kind of on-call support role, as they are often paid for overtime and weekends.


9 – You Need To Be Able to Budget

Another important lesson is that you’ll need to learn how to budget your money.

Going from college, where you might have had a part-time job, to full-time work, usually results in a big increase in your pay.

You’ll be tempted to spend the money you get, buying new gadgets and going out for dinner.

However, you’ll find that you don’t have enough money for what you want to do. If you need to pay rent, this is something you must pay, and you don’t want to be short one month for rent!

It took me a few years to realise that budgeting is important.

Budgeting might sound boring, but it’s just the process of working out how much you get paid and how much you need to spend in different areas of your life.

The best way to improve something is to actually track it.

So, to start, write down how much you get paid each period (weekly or monthly, for example)

Write down all of your expenses for that period.

The number you have left over is what you can spend.

Now, this isn’t a personal finance site, so while it’s a topic I’m really interested in, I won’t go into details here.

Two websites that I follow regularly and who offer great financial information are Financial Samurai, and I Will Teach You To Be Rich (by Ramit Sethi).

Both of those websites have a lot of great information. They are both based in the US, but I’ve found the information and concepts valuable even living in Australia.


10 – The Environment May Not Always Be Suitable

When you were working on college assignments, you may have done them at home, or gone to the library. You had the option of moving around to find a place that’s suitable for you.

However, when you go to work full time, the environment you work in is fixed. It might not be suitable for the way you work.

The main thing to be aware of is distractions. Because there are so many people in an office, there can be a lot happening.

Some examples of things that can distract you are:

  • Other people getting phone calls
  • Your phone ringing
  • Other people talking to each other nearby
  • People walking around and making noise (closing doors, etc)
  • Some people playing music at their desk
  • Group activities in the office (foosball table, TV)

Working in an environment like this takes a lot to get used to.

Fortunately, over time I’ve been able to block out everything around me and focus on my work, most of the time. Sometimes, though, I don’t even notice when people are talking to me, which can seem a bit rude!

So, it’s just another thing to be aware of. Having distractions in the office can often mean that your work environment isn’t as suitable as you like.

Many offices these days also adopt the open-plan structure, which means they have no partitions between desks and people are sitting close to each other, instead of the high walled cubicles that you see on TV and in movies. This means that noise travels further and it’s easier to get distracted – not good if you’re a developer and need to focus on solving a problem in your code.


11 – Managers Love Having Meetings

You might think that managers are responsible for giving you work and managing projects you’re on.

This is true, but there’s also another thing they do with their day.

They have meetings.

So many meetings.

I’ve worked for quite a few clients in my time, and a common theme is that all of the managers are always in meetings for most of the day.

It’s like it’s a requirement of that position, and that it’s the only way to get things done.

I don’t think they actually love the meetings, it’s just an obligation or a way to discuss what needs to happen.

However, you’ll notice that your manager, and probably other managers, will be off in meetings for a long time. It might come as a surprise, but this is just a part of working life.


12 – You Can’t Always Install What You Want

Companies like to lock down their employee’s computers for security reasons. The restrictions depend on the company, so some companies are more relaxed than others, but overall, there is usually some kind of restriction on the computer you use at work.

As someone who works in the IT industry, you’re probably pretty familiar with how computers work. You know your way around the operating system and are comfortable with many different programs.

To get things done easier, you might want to install different programs on your computer. Evernote, 7Zip, Sublime, and Dropbox are some examples that I’ve seen.

However, the IT department might have prevented you from installing these. You won’t be allowed to install some programs on your laptop.

This is mainly for security reasons. They set up a company-wide policy that meets their security requirements, and it will either block you from installing this software or automatically remove it every so often.

This might seem alarming to you, and even quite annoying. What do they know? You’re not going to do anything suspicious! It helps you get your work done?

There are two things you can do. You can suggest to your manager that these tools will help you do your work and see if you can get an exception to the policy.

Or, you can use the tools that are available on your computer.

Most of the time, I’ve just stuck with the tools available on my computer. They are not ideal (I’d rather use Notepad++ than Notepad), but it still lets me get the job done.


13 – Keep Your Personal Work To A Minimum

Working full time means that you’ll be occupied during normal business hours – from 9 AM to 5 PM. This is the time that most other businesses open as well.

As you start working full time and getting more responsibility in life, there are probably more things you need to get done during the day outside of your work.

Some of these are:

  • Booking your car into the mechanic
  • Buying tickets to events
  • Calling your phone company
  • Shopping for clothes
  • Buying things for your house
  • Keeping track of your finances

Some of the tasks I’ve listed here can be done online while at home. Some other tasks can only be done during business hours. Your phone company may only accept calls between 9 and 5. This means you’ll need to take time out of your day to do this.

When you start working full time, I suggest that you keep this kind of work to a minimum. Don’t spend hours each day going to the shops, making calls, and browsing other sites to get your personal work done.

Sure, you’ll need to do a bit here and there. I recently moved house and there were a lot of calls to make and a lot of places to update my details online. However, I kept it to a certain time each day.

The reason for this is so you set a good impression. You don’t want people to think all you do is your personal to-do list.

The best time to do this is during your lunch break. However, a lot of other people have the same idea, so it’s often busy. If you can’t do it during lunch, choose another time, perhaps in the afternoon, or a time when you don’t have an immediate task to work on.


14 – Getting to Work May Take Longer And Have Delays

Aah, the joys of commuting to work.

If you had a part-time job while you were studying, it may have been pretty close to where you live. It could have been the local supermarket, restaurant, or some other kind of retail store.

When I was studying, I worked in a Mexican restaurant which was about a 10-minute drive from home. This was great for getting to and from work.

A lot of full-time jobs are based in a central business district (CBD). This, of course, depends on where you live, but it’s quite common. And, you may not live in the CBD. Which means it will take you longer than what you’re used to getting to work.

You can either drive to work (if you have a car) or get public transport. It depends on where you live, of course. In Melbourne, we have a few choices. I used to drive to work, then I started getting the train.

The time it takes to get to work will be longer than what you’re used to. Don’t be surprised if you find you have to leave home at 7:30 to get to work by 9.

Also, because it’s the time when everyone is going to work, it will be busy. The same drive at night time will be a lot faster than in the morning peak-hour traffic.

It can also mean delays. Car accidents can cause delays for a long time. Delays with public transport may be rare, or quite regular, depending on your city. In Melbourne, they happen almost every day!

So, just be aware that getting to work will take longer than you expect.


15 – You’re Not Stuck in One Role

The good news about working in IT is that you’re not stuck to a particular role. In many other industries, you’re often working in a role for a long time, and you get promotions to more senior roles. The roles may be quite similar, just with more responsibility.

However, in IT, you have a lot of flexibility to move around.

Are you a .NET Developer? Great.

Want to move into something focused more on SQL Server? Great, you can do this.

Want to be involved in testing? Sure.

Want to move into project management, or team leading, or business analysis? Sure, you can do that as well.

To move around roles you need some training and some experience. You can use experience in one role to move to the next, so after a couple of years in one role (for example), you can look to move towards a different role if you want. If you receive any offers for other roles, you can evaluate them and decide if you want to go ahead.

Training is the other big factor. You’ll need to know how to do the job that you want, so it’s a good idea to look into some training and learn how the new role works. This will make it easier for you and the company.

Many vendors and companies offer all kinds of training, so do a Google search for some related training courses.


16 – This Won’t Be Your Last Employer

The company you start working for in your first job in IT won’t be the last employer. It’s rare for people these days to stay in a job for their entire lives as our parents or grandparents might have.

Don’t be afraid that you’re taking the wrong job, or that you’ll be stuck at a company. Sure, it’s important to start working at a good job and one that will improve your skills and career, but don’t feel like you need to pick one and commit to it for life.

It’s common for people to move around employers, and it’s a great way to improve your salary.

If you start working somewhere and get some good experience after a few years, you are allowed to leave. Firstly, you should look at your current employer to see if there is room for growth, but if not, you can consider moving employers. You could even go back to college/university and get your Masters.


17 – Going Out for Drinks the Night Before a Work Day is Not a Good Idea

Young people like to drink. We like to go out with friends for dinner, which leads to drinks. Or we just like to go out and start drinking.

Most of the time, this happens on a Friday or Saturday night.

Sometimes, it happens during the week. Especially when you’re at uni or college. When I was at uni, a lot of bars had “Uni Nights” which were on Tuesdays and Thursdays, where uni students went out and drank.

Going out for drinks is fun. What’s not fun, is going to work the next day after going out drinking.

You might be tempted to have a few drinks on a weeknight, which leads into a few more drinks, and all of a sudden you’re getting home at midnight and are quite drunk.

You’ve got to get up for work the next day and put in a full day’s performance.

This is one of the hardest things to do in life – working while hungover.

I did it once, and won’t be doing it again.

It’s just not worth it.

So, it probably requires a change in lifestyle if you’re the kind of person who likes to go out and drink during the week.


18 – The Quality of Your Work is Important

One of the most important things to know is that the quality of the work that you do is important.

In uni and college, the quality was important as well. You write an assignment or develop some code for your assignment. Once it’s submitted, it’s marked, you get a result, and that’s it. The assignment is never used again.

A better quality assignment meant a better grade. However, it didn’t last long. The only purpose of the assignment quality was to get a good grade.

In the IT industry, the quality of your work lasts a long time.

Your code is deployed to a live, production system, and stays there for years.

Your documentation is used by the team for the entire project, and may even be used by the support team.

Your spreadsheets for your analysis may be used by other people for a while to help them do their job.

So, it’s important to produce good quality work. It helps your team, it helps your team manager and also helps others who are affected by it.

One of the most important books I’ve read recently is “Clean Code“. It explains the importance of writing good quality, clean code. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you do.

The quality of your work is important as it can also help you get promoted and move into other roles. It’s a reflection of you and how you work, so make sure it’s good!



Starting a new job as a software developer is exciting. There’s a lot to learn and a lot to remember, but you’ll start getting better and more comfortable as the days and weeks go on.

What other tips do you have for starting a new job? Share them in the comments below.

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