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6 Tips For Your First IT Job

So you finally got it! Your first IT job in the corporate world. Now what? Well the first couple of weeks are probably going to be awkward. You are going to be given a lot of documentation to go through, you are going to have to sit through meetings you know nothing about, you might not even have a computer the first couple days. It can get pretty boring real quick. And if this is your first job right out of college, working 8 hour days is something that takes time to build up an endurance for. Here are a few tips to get you started on the right path.

1. Don't Act Like You Know Everything

The first weeks are all about patience and absorbing information. You do not need to try and prove yourself. You already got the job. Trying to show off is not going to impress those that actually have years, maybe decades of experience over you. The key objective here is simply learn! Come in early. Stay late. Show that you want to learn. Rather than trying to show how much you know, let the seniors on the team show off their knowledge to you. It works out much better that way in the beginning. They feed off your energy to learn so it makes it exciting for them as well.

2. Learn Acronyms

Acronyms in the corporate world are like trending phrases you used to say in school to be cool. In the corporate world, if you don't know the lingo, you're not in the "cool" group. Regardless of whether you want to be in the cool group or not, acronyms are important and you'll be hearing them a lot! When you start hearing them, use context clues to try and figure out what they may be referring to. Its also ok to ask if you are one-on-one or in a small group, but don't hold up a meeting so that they can give you a tutoring session on what SDLC means. If it starts to get overwhelming, start jotting them down. Then once you are back at your desk you can either google them or ask a team member over chat.

3. Document Things You Learn

Find a strategy for storing valuable info such as processes, usernames and passwords, scripts, contacts, and important links. This helps you avoid asking someone repeatedly for the same info, and also makes you valuable because new team members will find you as a good source for valuable information. Onboarding processes are a good example of info to document. How did you get access to the QA server? How did you get source control access? Processes such as these, may be as simple as sending an email to the right person, or they could be as complex as filling out several complicated online forms. Either way, you can simply open up a text document and write down the steps you took to complete the process. Or an even better option is to create a page on the team's wiki on "How to Get Source Control Access". Documenting these steps will save you time later down the road and adds value to yourself because you have knowledge that people will want later.

4. Know When To Ask for Help

One thing that will become difficult to balance is when to ask for help. You don't want to constantly be asking someone for help, or asking the same questions over and over. You also don't want to be late on your tasks and projects because you got stuck on a problem and spent 2 days on a problem that would have been solved with a 2 minute convo with the guy next door. So one strategy to help with this is to time-box the issue you are troubleshooting. Allocate a certain amount of time, based on what you feel is satisfactory for your skillset, and once you've reached that limit, then get up and go ask for help. Always try to solve the issue on your own first. This will help you gain knowledge not only about the issue at hand, but it will also force you to learn things related to your issue. Knowledge is always more valuable than just getting something done and not knowing why it is done a certain way. Trying to solve the problem on your own will also be useful for later if you eventually ask for help. You will be able to ask more educated questions and understand the provided answer better.

5. Setup KT Meetings

KT (Knowledge Transfer) meetings are intended to do exactly that, transfer knowledge. The sessions are conducted by SME's (subject matter experts) from your team to help teach you about the application(s) you'll be working on. Some companies will setup new employees with an onboarding plan which will include KT sessions. If you were not that fortunate, ask your manager if you can setup a few one-on-one, 30 minute meetings with a few team members so they can teach you what they know. If the meetings go well, feel free to extend or schedule more. Now the amount of technical knowledge you retain from these is not always that great. The best way to learn the technical stuff is to work on the technical stuff. However, one of the biggest advantages to these KT meetings is that it provides you with an opportunity to meet the people who know the application. You will learn which team members are experts in which areas, you will learn the personalities of people you will soon be interacting with, and you will learn who are good teachers. And finding a good teacher brings us to the next tip...

6. Find a Mentor

Some companies provide you a mentor from the get-go, and some have no notion of a mentoring process. But no matter who you were assigned, or not-assigned, find the person that is the most knowledgeable and the most capable of teaching that knowledge. Remember, the smartest person is not always the best teacher. Having a mentor in this industry is invaluable. The amount of information you could learn on your own vs the amount you could learn from a mentor really means about 3 - 5 years of your career. There is nothing wrong with learning everything on your own, but you will be doubling or tripling the amount of time it takes you to come to the same place in your career than if you had a mentor alongside you during your first few years.

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