Over-index in your first few months

Dear new developer,

It is unfortunate, but first impressions matter. And, like any other job, a developer position is in large part based on relations with other people. Therefore, it behooves you to bring your best self to work for the first few months of any job. That doesn’t mean you get to check out later, but in the first few months you should stand out. Some ways to stand out:

  • Arrive on time, or a bit early.
  • Do the extra research.
  • Take on the extra work (not too much–don’t set yourself up as a punching bag–but some).
  • Own your mistakes, but don’t beat yourself up when they happen.
  • Be unfailingly polite.
  • Don’t make the same mistake twice.
  • Ask for your manager’s time and make sure you and they are on the same page regarding goals. How often? Ask.
  • Write that extra bit of documentation to make the next hire’s onboarding easier.
  • Anything else you can think of.

Once you have the reputation of a hard, smart worker, it is hard to lose. After a few months, you can ease off, partly because you have gained the reputation, partly because you’ll actually understand the job better so will be able to do it with less effort.

When you first join an organization, everyone is excited. If you can over-index and achieve 105% or 110% of what they expected of you, the team members will continue to be excited. Consider the alternative where you only deliver 90% or 95% of what they expected. They’ll remember you as pretty good, but maybe a bit of a disappointment.

Either way, that first impression can last for years and can follow you around the organization (and beyond). Choose wisely.