How to Prepare for Your First Day of Work for Your First Developer/Designer Job
Nervous about your first day in a new career as a developer or designer? Read on to see how to prepare for your first day, with tips and advice from Get Hired students and Skillcrush’s product team
At Skillcrush, we help career changers learn the technical skills they need to become designers or developers. This means that we cheer a lot of students on through their very first days, not only at new jobs, but in whole new careers. Whether you’re a developer or a designer, your first day as a beginner in a new role is always a little scary, especially if you’re also totally new to the field.
Whether your specialty is in web design or web development, whether you work for a startup or a large company, your first day of work at your new full-time job generally involves meeting your coworkers, getting the lay of the land, and filling out a lot of paperwork for HR.
However, that’s not to say that you can’t prepare (or even over-prepare) for your first day at your first software development or web design job.
Below, we’re going to share some advice on how to feel ready for your first developer or design job, and give you some tips for your first day.
Table of Contents
- How do I prepare for my first software development job?
- What should I expect from my first developer job?
- What are some tips for my first day at my first coding job?
- How do I prepare for my first design job?
- What should I expect from my first design job?
- What are some tips for my first day at my first design job?
How do I prepare for my first software development job?
One way to prepare for your first software development job is to make sure you understand programming fundamentals and how to apply them across different programming languages and libraries. And you probably did all that to land the job in the first place! But you can still refresh your knowledge and get in a little practice before your big day.
Another way to prepare for your first development job is to review the components of the specific tech stack your new company uses, which you might’ve asked your hiring manager about during the job interview process.
While the text editor you use is generally up to you, the more you know about the tech stack you’ll be using, the easier it will be to integrate into the team and make contributions early on.
If your company has a public code repository on GitHub, and many open source projects or companies do, review the code to give yourself a head start for your first day. Even if you’re not a backend developer, it’s still good to have a bigger picture of how the code at your new company functions.
If you don’t know what tech stack your new company uses, think about the interview questions you were asked in order to test your technical skills during your job search, or email your recruiter or hiring manager for some insight.
Although nobody is expecting you to know everything before coming in to work at your first job, spending time at home reviewing can be a lot less stressful.
Caitlin Marshall, a Break Into Tech alumna, says that before her first day,“I went through the Skillcrush exercises again of setting up a local environment for an existing website and practiced a new thing my boss had mentioned in the interviews, but hadn’t done before. When I had asked what the first few weeks would look like, she said, ‘Well, we might have you do something like add a jobs posting page to an existing site,’ so I got out my Skillcrush practice site and did that.”
Finally, if you want to go the extra mile, you can also see what current projects the company is working on or what they’re planning on doing in the future, and look into what you can learn ahead of time to prepare for that.
What should I expect from my first developer job?
Your first junior developer role might involve some long hours learning new skills on the job. As with every new role, you won’t know everything there is to know on your first day there — especially if you’re just starting in this career path or don’t have a lot of work experience.
Remember, not even computer science grads know everything about writing code when they get to their first entry-level job (or ever!).
You’ll most likely spend a lot of your time reviewing code, building your skillset, reading tutorials, and looking at source code and version control information at your first programming job.
Noel Arzola, Front End Developer at Skillcrush, suggests that you take lots of notes and ask lots of questions, saying, “When you first start, you’ll likely be paired [with another developer] and be given an overview of the codebase and access to a ton of tools. Plus you’ll get to see a lot of processes (both technical and not). With so much thrown at you in a short amount of time, you’ll find taking notes will help you keep everything sorted. Don’t feel you have to memorize everything — no one expects this!”
In addition to honing your skills, you’ll also have a lot of daily and weekly check-in meetings with your tech lead, project manager, and fellow coders.
In these whiteboard or check-in meetings, you’ll cover what you’ll be doing any given day or week, map out longer term quarterly goals, and have problem-solving sessions with your teammates.
In short, as a new software developer, you’ll likely learn a lot of new technical skills and have many a meeting at your first job.
If you work at a smaller team or startup, you may find yourself tossed into the deep end a bit more and working on higher stakes coding projects right out of the gate. It all depends on the specific role.
What are some tips for my first day at my first coding job?
It may not sound very glamorous, but the reality is that you’ll likely spend most of your first day getting set up with tools, filling in forms for HR, scheduling meetings, and getting to know teammates.
Rikaiyah Winters, a Skillcrush Break Into Tech (and Get Hired program) alumna, says, “Technically speaking, I prepared by accessing my work email and setting up my employee portal that has all of my personal information, including direct deposit, insurance, etc. The first day of my job was all housekeeping things like making sure I had all necessary software downloaded, meeting with my mentor, etc.”
In fact, that might take up the first one or two weeks in your new role. During this time, you’ll want to read up on the different parts of the tech stack that your new company uses and get familiar with each component of that stack, from the operating system to the API to the frameworks and libraries.
When we asked Caitlin for advice for first-day-in-a-new-career advice, she said, “Breathe! And keep a notebook handy, to jot down notes and questions.” For the first week and even the first month, she added, career changers should remember to breathe and to “be eager to help in whatever way you can.”
Caitlin notes that in her first week, the company where she started, “was close to the finish line on a very large web project, and it was time for QA.” She added, “I said I’d be happy to do it, and plowed through a ton of button-clicking and layout-scrutinizing in my first week or so. Even though it wasn’t exactly what I was hired for, it was a great way to demonstrate that I am very detail-oriented, a good communicator, and definitely a team player. And then I got to move into more developer-specific work, fixing the bugs I’d found in QA!”
Finally, remember that Google is your best friend and that being a software engineer isn’t really about what you know, it’s about what you can figure out.
Even if your Google-fu is super strong, Rikaiyah says, “One piece of advice I have for career changers in their first tech role is don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That’s how you grow! Also don’t be afraid to make connections with others on your team early. And if your position allows flexibility, don’t try to jump into so much material so fast, take your time (if you can) to learn the ropes of your job.”
How do I prepare for my first design job?
Preparing for a design role might be a little different from preparing for a developer role. While a company’s repository might not be public, as a designer, you can see your new company’s designs and overall vibe on their website. This gives you a great opportunity to do some studying before you start your new job.
One way to prepare for your first design job is to work your way around your new company’s website. You want to explore the current layout and take note of the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX).
The more familiar you are with your company’s website design, the more you’ll be able to provide valuable feedback down the road if you’re asked for your opinion on the website’s UX/UI.
In the same vein, you’ll also want to review the fundamental design concepts that you learned in your web design courses, such as color theory, wireframing, grid systems, and user flows.
Although studying is a great way to prepare yourself for your new career, preparing yourself mentally for the job is important too. One way to be mentally prepared is to boost your confidence ahead of your first day.
We asked Allison Green, one of our Break into Tech alum, how she prepared for her first day as a designer. She said, “I think I did several things to feel I was prepared. I wanted a great on-the-job outfit and dress for the job to prepare and feel confident. I went to pick up my tech equipment and fill out HR things for two and a half hours, but I felt confident walking into the building.”
What should I expect from my first design job?
Just like you would in a first developer role, you should expect to spend a lot of time in your first designer role learning how to use design tools and skills that you might not have used before. For example, you might have to learn how to use Sketch when you’ve previously used Figma, or a different wireframing tool than you were taught.
You might have to get familiar with user testing and user experience software as a professional web designer that you didn’t use as a student as well as how the design team fits into an organization’s larger context and goals.
At your first design job, you might carry out your first user tests and get to know your new company’s target audience and how to design for them.
While you have solid skills that you learned in your web design courses, your first design job will teach you how to design within a company’s paradigm, for a particular demographic or market, and how to research what works in terms of UI/UX in a very practical way.
Allison advises being proactive on the job, saying, “The blueprints from Skillcrush gave me a solid foundation and it was on me to seek out projects. My strengths are research and working with users. I think I need to work more on Adobe, but I’m taking advantage of every tutorial I can get and volunteering on additional projects to keep these skills sharp. I want to take advantage of professional development opportunities — I’m looking to see what things cross neatly between UX design and education and signed up for my first conference on accessibility.”
What are some tips for my first day at my first design job?
Before you start your first day at work at your first design job, you’ll want to brush up on your skills with the tools that your new company uses.
If you didn’t get a chance to ask what tools your company primarily uses during the interview process, you should ask your recruiter or new team lead so that you can spend some time reacquainting yourself with a particular software or tool.
For example, if you know that your new company uses Adobe Illustrator and you’ve only used it once or twice in your web design class, you should consider watching some videos and building out some designs in Adobe Illustrator so that you can be prepared for your first projects at work.
If the company uses software or tools that you’ve never used before, don’t panic! Nobody expects you to know how to use every tool on your first day, but practicing with a particular software or tool beforehand, or even reading or watching a tutorial, will make you less nervous and give you a head start at work.
For Allison, getting to know her coworkers before her first day was really important. She notes, “My current supervisor had reached out to welcome me to the team and I was grateful to be able to ask her what to bring, do, etc. for my first day. Having that open line of communication helped ease my nerves, so I didn’t feel like I was behind. Another thing I did with a few of my colleagues after the interviews was search for the interview team on LinkedIn and reached out. I would recommend doing that to put your name out there before you even start face to face.”
As a beginner designer, you’ll also want to pay attention to your company’s dynamics—how the design team interacts, including who is responsible for what parts of the website’s design, how design tasks are allocated, how they work with colleagues on the development team, etc..
Allison’s first day advice is to “break it up granularly and be okay with just getting inundated.”
“Yes,” Allison says, “It’s a whole new field, job, and skillset. It’s okay to take it slow and take the time to get settled in the company. I didn’t have to get in there and do a bunch of mockups to prove myself. Be comfortable with the onboarding process and take advantage of downtime to get to know the company and get to know the company.”
It’s useful to learn how closely the design team works with other teams, such as the product or development team, as well as the marketing and sales team because, more often than not, you’ll need to work with all of these teams.
Skillcrush’s Product Designer, Monalisa Kabos, advises to not be afraid to ask questions.
She says, “At the beginning of my career, I was afraid to ask for more details or questions about projects, so I would assume too much. By asking more questions and getting more details, I was able to more efficiently figure out what the other person wanted, which made collaboration and communication much easier and smoother.”
Allison also notes that during the first weeks at your new job to not be afraid “to ask questions. I’m grateful to Skillcrush, but there’s things I don’t know in terms of skillset or platform. It’s okay to take some time to familiarize myself with the environment and with acronyms. I wouldn’t want people to be intimidated or scared to ask questions. You’re still the new hire and nobody expects you to come in knowing every single thing.”
As you move along the onboarding process, you’ll want to get an idea of the bigger picture of the organization itself and the product owner and other stakeholders’ needs and goals, which will impact a large part of your daily or weekly schedule.
The product owner generally allocates resources to make sure the startup or organization’s goal for the week or the quarter is on track, and your skills are one of those resources. Therefore, by understanding your product owner (and company’s) short-term and long-term goals, you’ll have an easier time fitting into your new role.
If you’re a career changer, it’s important to remember that “the hiring committee chose you for a reason,” Allison says. “They chose you, and that means they saw things in you that they didn’t see in other candidates. They know you’re switching careers and they can see that and are aware. Once you accept the offer, you’re exactly where you need to be. They want you! And that gave me confidence on my first day — telling myself this isn’t a mistake, this company chose you.”