10 Things to do when starting a new job

Starting a new job can be both stressful and exciting at the same time. But remember, you already did the hard part, you got the job.

Our bodies are interesting machines. As with anything new and unknown, starting a new job comes with a lot of uncertainty. You have no idea what awaits you on the other side, so your body goes into a survival mode and you feel stressed out.

But worry not, they hired you for a reason. You already have the knowledge and skills. And you already left a good first impression or you wouldn't be there.

To help you get started with a bang, let me share a few pragmatic tips you should do when you start a new job.

1. Your workflow

In your first week, you'll go through onboarding. You might watch some videos and you'll set up your dev environment.

Most people stop here.

I suggest setting up your laptop the way you'd set up your personal one. Make your workflow the way you'd like it to be. You don't have to settle for less.

Ask around on what the policy is for installing other apps on your machine. Most companies don't mind you installing third party apps. I love to use Alfred so that's the first app I install on every laptop. I am so used to it that I feel lost without it.

Then I install a note-taking app, like Obsidian, and Bartender for the menu bar. I immediately become more productive and both my work and my personal laptop use the same workflows.

2. Inbox Zero

Yes, inbox zero. And I mean it.

Every morning when I start my work I go through all the emails I've received. And every day before I leave work, I do the same. I've been doing this every day since I started my first job. I highly recommend it.

Organize your emails with folders. When you read an email, if you need to keep it for reference, move it to a folder. If you don't need it, delete it. Sometimes you're discussing something important or you need to remind yourself, keep the email there, or pin it at the top until you don't need it anymore. Then repeat the step before.

There are always going to be some emails, I like to call spam, that you'll receive because someone put you on a list and you don't need to read it. Create a filter in your email client and make it automatically go away. One email less to read. Do this for any other recurring email you don't need to read.

Create filters for GitHub and Jira emails as well and let them automatically move to a separate folder.

3. Write it down

I'm one of those people who like to keep everything in their head. Do not recommend. I rarely forget anything, but it's years of practice. Although I don't keep notes for my personal life, I do put events in my calendar.

When it comes to work, there's too much happening every day, I have to keep notes.

I organize my note taking app very deliberately. I have folders for all recurring meetings and notes for every meeting. One-on-one with a manager? There's a folder for that and a note for every meeting organized by date.

Keep notes of everything, people, flows, links, anything you think is important and anything you think is not important, because you'll need it at some point.

4. Your Calendar

Keep your calendar up-to-date. Always. Your colleagues will appreciate it.

Schedule lunches or any other appointments if you're away from your desk. Add events in your calendar when you're on vacation and remember to mark them as "Away".

Own your calendar.

5. Promotions and raises

Learn all about the company process on how promotions and raises work. And write it down if it's not already documented somewhere.

How does the feedback loop go? Who decides who gets a promotion or a raise? Learn all about it!

What is it you have to do in your role to get a promotion or a raise, which leads us to the next point...

6. Define success

Learn the rules to the game so you can play it properly.

Set up recurring one-on-one meetings with your manager, if they don't schedule it first. Every week or every two weeks to start with.

Define success. Ask your manager what they think you should do to get that promotion or a raise, and ultimately be successful in your role. Set clear expectations. Write it down.

7. Ask for feedback

More often that not, people won't give you unsolicited feedback. So ask for it.

However, it's not that easy. We're not all comfortable sharing or receiving feedback. Especially when it's something we don't want to hear or say. Giving feedback is hard. Receiving even harder.

To make this as comfortable as it can get, set a good rapport with your team and other people in your organization.

This doesn't only go for asking if you're doing good or not. It goes for asking about your code or documentation you wrote, as well. Ask other developers in your team to take a look at your code and provide feedback. Is there anything you could've done better? Sure, they will see your PRs. But do it before a PR.

8. Meet the team

Meet your team and everyone else.

This goes for whether you work remotely or not. It's much harder to meet people when you're working remotely, so you have to be deliberate about it. Schedule coffee chats with people in your team and then branch out to other people in your organization.

I don't know who said it or where I've read it, but it goes something like this: "There's a correlation between how much work you get done and how many people you know."

And there's something to it. Knowing whom you could reach out and ask for help means a great deal.

9. Be There. Be Valuable.

Providing value means giving feedback or an opinion when the time calls for it. Take part in team meetings, like daily standups and retrospectives. Don't be the person who's physically on the call but doing something else in the background.

Also, don't be the person only repeating what others have said to provide value. This will get noticed and you're not doing yourself a favor.

10. Be kind to yourself

I highly recommend watching this talk from Jeremy on Flying Solo from Do iOS 2022 in Amsterdam. Jeremy sums up the imposter syndrome in a few words:

"Imposter Syndrome is a desease that doesn't exist." - Jeremy B.

Remember when you started learning programming and you had no idea what a variable is? Or how to write a function? When I started learning programming for the first time I had a really hard time understanding that "=" is not read equal. var num = 3 doesn't read num is equal to 3. It took me weeks to grasp that logic. Felt like I was just starting to learn how to read. And I kinda was.

Stop, take a look back, and remember everything you've learned so far. After a year at my first job I thought to myself I haven't learned anything. But then I remembered everything I did learn, instead of looking at what I didn't.

No one knows everything and we've all been there. Your colleagues with 10 years of experience, they have all been there.

Be kind to yourself. Understand that you don't know everything and you never will. When you embrace that fact, you'll allow yourself to grow and learn. And don't forget to acknowledge the progress you make along the way.

Final Thoughts

Should you start doing these things in your first week, your first 30 days, 90 days? It doesn't matter. It's never too early or too late.

This is in no way a final list of things you should do. There are many others, but I wrote down those I thought important.

What really matters in the end is to keep progressing and show you care. Be humble and open minded. You've never done this exact work in this exact setting, so adapt yourself.

Now have fun and enjoy the ride!

What do you do when you start a new job? Do you have any interesting tips? Let me know, I'm interested to learn more about your thoughts!

Please feel free to reach out on Twitter if you have any questions, comments, or feedback.

Thank you for reading!