The tech business is blooming! Companies from all around the world are recruiting IT professionals, offering them great perks to come work for them. They can work from any place they want, in the office or from the beach somewhere in Thailand. It’s a long way to go, and it starts with a good first job.
I took my first job when I was in my second year of master’s studies. I was supposed to work on mobile applications, but it turned out it was an all-around position. I was working on databases, desktop and web applications, and even fixing hardware. There was a lot to learn about business and making software, but the technologies, infrastructure, and processes that we were using were ready to be buried.
Time passed, and I started to realize that the way we were doing things in the company was not even as close as it is in other, modern companies. I started looking for a new job to start over, but that wasn’t easy. I was expected to be proficient with some things; after all, I had two and more years of experience. Job listings were for specialized positions like backend or frontend developer, and I wasn’t a specialist for anything. After several failed interviews, I managed to get a chance to start working at Infobip. In the first half-year, I learned more than in two and a half years at my first job.
The point is that you shouldn’t make the choice of the first job easily. Things can always be repaired later, as in my case, but you lose some of your precious time, and that repair can be difficult.
One might say I want to work where I will have the best earnings. Isn’t that the point of work after all? Well, in your situation, it still isn’t. You are a beginner, and what you need is to gain skills and experience. Once you do that, many doors will be open to you.
Graduates have a minimum of practical knowledge, and often the things covered in classes are different from what the market needs. If you were researching and learning what is needed on the market while you were in college, you have a great starting advantage.
On your first job, you will apply the knowledge you have acquired about software development and try to correct it if you learn something wrong. You will correct it and learn new things by working in an environment that uses the latest software development practices.
Having a good mentor will help you in any part of your career. That should be someone who is at least a grade above yours, or more if possible—a person who has gone through your current career phase exceptionally. Of course, not everyone can or should be your mentor. Take good observations and decide who is the right mentor for you and who will help you improve your career.
Companies usually dedicate some of their current employees to mentoring newcomers. Mentors are experienced in their job and familiar with how the company works. He or she will teach you how your job is done right, best practices, how to learn new things, solve problems, and much more. If you don’t have it, you will have to work and learn on your own, which may lead you to learn things wrong.
Choosing a company based on its mentorship program is very popular these days since more and more people realize the importance of mentoring in their careers.
- Organization and company culture
Working in a toxic and high-pressure environment is not something that is desirable for someone who is starting to work. It can indirectly influence you to adopt some wrong behavior, like becoming a bad team player due to high competitiveness, for example, which can be a problem in some of your next jobs where a fine company culture is developed and teamwork is highly valued.
You also don’t want to work in an organization where promotions aren’t based on skills and qualities but on other qualifications and connections within the company. Sooner or later, these companies start losing their best talents and clients, which ultimately drags the company to the ground.
- Learn to learn
It is completely natural that after graduating, we don’t know a lot of things about our profession. There will be many new challenges that we will have to overcome on our own. One of the things that the school system was made to teach us is how to cope with new, unfamiliar things. Unfortunately, more and more schools fail to do this due to various reasons (inadequate educators, easy exams, etc.).
This problem reflects later in the fact that beginners struggle to find the solution to an unfamiliar problem by themselves, using the knowledge they already have and all available resources on the Internet. Even after some time of working and being mentored by someone with more experience, these people still have the same problem. Learning to learn new things and to solve problems by ourselves is one of the strongest skills we can obtain.
It is difficult to determine with absolute certainty. Most companies advertise themselves as the best possible place to work, with great office space, tennis tables, fruits, and challenging projects. But usually, everything isn’t so good behind the scenes. The best way to check if the company is good and suits your needs is to ask someone you know who is working at or has worked at that company. The opinion of the local community is also usually accurate.
Another thing that you can track is how many people the company hires and how many people leave the company in some period of time. If the latter number is low, it usually means that the company is stable, not letting go of employees easily, and taking care of them, so they don’t have a reason to go somewhere else.
If you are in the interview process with the company, you can ask questions about the position and team that you will work with and what kind of projects you will work on. If you sense that something doesn’t add up, feel free to bypass that company.
Communication with the company can reveal some things about the organization, usually hidden from the ads and social media. Not responding to emails within a reasonable period of time, mistaking the candidate’s name, etc. is not permissible for companies that want to hire great talent. On the other hand, open and respectful communication, no matter how the hiring process goes, says a lot about that company.
Even if we investigate everything stated and get good recommendations for a company, there is still a chance that it isn’t for you. Something just doesn’t fit. A couple of interviews isn’t enough to get to know someone, so in the first few months of your job, you will finally see if the company is everything you thought. If it isn’t, that isn’t the end of the world. Find out what you don’t like and what you want from the next company, then continue the search for your next right job.
As you can see, it isn’t the money that should be pursued on the first job. It is an opportunity to learn and grow. To learn how things are done correctly and grow as a person in a healthy environment. To take a leap towards independent software engineering.
Once you’ve found the desired company, the next round of the process starts—preparation for the interview.