How I prepare for a new (first) developer job.

chiangs profile image Stephen E. Chiang Originally published at chiangs.ninja on ・5 min read


Now that I’ve gone through the blood, sweat, and tears of finding that awesome new job…how do I make sure that I start off on the right path?

I’m going to be starting a new job in the next couple of weeks. I really should have started earlier this month, but the processing of my work visa has gone slower than expected.

It can be nerve-wracking to just sit there and twiddle your thumbs waiting for things to happen when you just want to get started and meet your teammates and get to building cool stuff.

Luckily for me, on top of having a new-born girl to look after and a family to move from one country to the next, I have a new-job-preparation plan. But before I share my plan, let me talk about how I went about formulating it.

Asking the right questions and actually listening to the answers.

The preparation plan really starts during the job application process. I’ve read the specifications and needs of this position, I also researched the company’s achievements and future pursuits. So I have a basic list of hard and soft skills I need to continue to perfect, or shore up if I’m a little weak on a particular aspect.

Next comes the interview. Most often at the end of the interview, I get to ask questions. There’s a lot of emphasis in asking the right questions to demonstrate your interest, if you’ve researched the company, your intelligence and critical thinking even. But you should also ask the right questions demonstrate that you listened  and made a plan to address needs.

So I ask the typical questions about the technological stack, about the current challenges and potential solutions being looked at, but I also ask questions about how things might be changing. If the company has a lot of legacy projects in AngularJS that are updating to Angular 2+, cool, I’m going to research on best practices on making it a smooth transition. Or perhaps the company is delving into building mobile solutions with React Native. Also cool, time to play around and build some things, maybe take some courses. Also, look at the common denominators of needs… in this example, it’s JavaScript.

Even better, time to really hit the core knowledge of JavaScript. Perhaps I was hired based on the potential to work cross-functionally from my past experience in sales, project management, consulting, whatever. That’s really great. Time to revisit past lessons learned and look at how to integrate it with the new job and development in general.

Is the company in a foreign country? Even if the business language is English, take the time to learn some basics to build better rapport with your future teammates. Så nu, lærer jeg norsk 🙂

Sometimes you don’t get too much time at the end of the interview to ask all your questions. That’s ok, there’s a second opportunity. After an interview, I always write to the individuals interviewing me, thanking them for their time and perhaps follow-ups on information that came up in the discussion that may not have been answered. You can close this message with a question or two here. This is a great way to reiterate to them your level of interest and excitement for the position and company, without just saying, “I’m really excited for this job.”

Finally, after you’ve received an offer and accepted, it’s always good to follow-up with a message and, here, you can really talk about how you want to invest your time leading up to starting. Make a plan in your professional development by having a discussion about what your future supervisor/lead wants you to focus on. This doesn’t always happen, sometimes there’s a lot of uncertainty, or a time of transition, or perhaps there’s just too many varied opportunities to identify specific items. That’s ok, at least you tried and it shows your initiative.

Pick and choose carefully which questions you ask. It might not be all that appropriate or relevant in asking about future needs if you haven’t gotten the offer just yet, or if this is your first job (focus on the core and immediate needs first).

You probably have your own personal education and professional development plan that might consist of books, courses, side projects, etc. Ideally, this new-job-preparation plan shouldn’t be all that different in terms of subjects compared to your personal plan, assuming you are pursuing jobs that are inline with your skills and interests.

So the preparation plan, should really act as a focusing agent that helps you prioritize how you allocate your time against your personal development plan. I know it has for me. As a junior developer, I’ve got a metric $#!^ ton of learning to do and it’s been hard to decide what skills / languages / frameworks to focus on, especially when everything is really interesting and exciting!

What does my plan look like?

At the moment, I don’t sleep a lot thanks to my lovely daughter. Rest is important to learning well, so that’s a challenge. Right now, I stay up from ten at night to about four in the morning, taking two courses that focus core skills that I will need at my new job: JavaScript and two frameworks, and React Native, and .NET.

During the day, when I’ve got my daughter strapped to me, it’s hard to code with one hand, but do-able. Rather, I take that time to read a computer-science book to improve my ability to manage solve problems logically and efficiently, informational articles on the technologies I’ll be working with, or watch Norwegian language tutorials. Har det bra!

If I’m lucky and I can get away for a bit, I try to build something or apply new knowledge to my personal portfolio site to practice. I also review my plan to make sure I’m doing things that are relevant.

Lastly, if there’s a really big gap before you start, that sneaky, bastard imposter syndrome monster might sneak up on you. Don’t let it win, executing your plan routinely will help to combat it and keep you positive and confident that you are going to show up on that first day, prepared.

If you don’t know your own value, somebody will tell you your value, and it’ll be less than you are worth. ~Bernard Humphrey Hopkins Jr.

So how about you guys, how do you prepare for that new job? And, what are your tips to managing that plan?


Editor guide
jeansberg profile image
Jens Genberg

On the other hand, you already got the job offer. That means they feel confident you can handle it and I'm sure they expect you to do a whole lot of learning on the job in the beginning.

You stay up until four studying? When do you sleep? I don't think this sounds very healthy.

chiangs profile image
Stephen E. Chiang Author

With a new-born baby, you don't get much more than 3 or 4 hours straight anyway :)

Thanks to my previous life in the army, I sleep when I can. I stay healthy by practicing muay thai every day and eating well my friend!

jeansberg profile image
Jens Genberg

All right, just don't wear yourself out!