Being a fresher is not easy and I agree with you a 100%. You’re not taken seriously, are often out skilled and mostly you have this pressure to match up to the team’s expectations of being able to carry your own weight.
What is blog is all about?
Well I am glad you asked, it’s about being able to level up quickly. Making meaningful relations and most importantly being able to be there for your team as quickly as possible, carrying your own weight and maybe help carry someone else’s too. If you’re new to a firm or starting a new job, this blog might be for you too. When I say fresher, I refer to all the people who’re joining a new company or fresh graduates who are just starting out.
Before you start
Being a fresher is a wonderful experience and although a lot of people don’t like it, it’s an amazing time to go and experiment and have some fun along the way. So don’t get all too serious and forget to enjoy this experience because it is short lasting and before you know it, it’ll be over.
Let’s get started then.
Step 1: Fiddle with you curiosity
As a fresher you’re completely unaware of what is what. You generally don’t know what kind of tech stack the company or your team uses. You might not know the use of some technologies or frameworks and sometimes you might not event know how to code. Well sure you would know how to write a few programs here and there but how to write, structure and maintain enterprise applications is something you wouldn’t know much about.
Take this opportunity to get your hands dirty into it. Keep asking “Why this?” on the internet to everything you learn new. It may also be the time you can actually try out some different inputs and see for yourself how the system behaves in order to get a deeper understanding. Take it from babies, if you give them a Lego block, they would throw it, try to put them into their mouth and do IDK what not, just to figure out what all can they do with that block and learn from experience.
Step 2: Be a great mentee
Believe it or not, people want to help you. They would do everything they can, to get you started as soon as possible. So maybe remember that while asking for help. You don’t need to be stuck on silly things for a long time, instead be smart and ask questions.
Most importantly, show prospect. Senior folks want to help those people where they see potential, where they know if they help it wouldn’t be a waste of their time. To be that person it’s simple:
- Listen to what they have to say.
- Be sincere, take it seriously and make sure you follow their timelines.
- Follow up with them, once you’ve completed your tasks and if they tell you reach out later, then do go back to them later. They are busy people but they will take time out for you trust me.
- Discuss your approach and understand theirs (don’t fight but understand).
- Share your progress about what you’re up to and how far have you reached on their assigned task. Discuss what you’re learning and how it’s relevant to the task you’re working on.
It’s important to find the right mentor and they don’t necessarily have to be in your team. One of my mentors (when I was a fresher) was someone who was one week into the company himself and was a champion in backend systems while I was a Frontend Windows Application developer (two very different domains).
That being said, its okay to have more than one mentor at the same time but make sure that you don’t fail any one of them. If they put in the time to guide you, make sure you give your 100%.
Your mentors need not be in the same company, it can be an online community leader in your domain or anyone per, who can guide you along the way.
Step 3: Save your mentor’s / senior’s time
Now this is key once you’ve got a mentor. You don’t necessarily have to come out as “heavy maintenance”. You can ask your mentors questions or help in your task but if you ask for help too often they might end up thinking you need spoon feeding.
I am guilty of this too, I used to refer to my senior almost 10 times a day, for the silliest of issues. There have been times that he came to my seat, performed a clean build on my code and it all started to work. It can’t get more embarrassing than that. Over a period of time I realized what I was doing, I was being an interruption in my senior’s way of completing their tasks.
A senior’s or mentor’s time is more valuable and each time you ask them for help, you interrupt their thought process and it might take them another 15–20 mins to get back in the zone. So it’s not about the 2 minutes of help you needed, it’s about the 25 minutes they’ll end up spending.
The once in a day door strategy
Now this is a strategy that I came up to stop myself from asking for help too much. The strategy goes as follows:
- Behind the yellow door, is my senior or mentor who can answer any question for me and get me out of the trickiest of the situations. All I need to do is open the door and ask the question.
- The catch is, I can only open the door once every day. Meaning if I ask a question early in the day, I can’t ask another later the same day.
- The reason why it works is, you always keep thinking what if this is a silly question and a major question comes later in the day.
- All in all, it started happening that I learnt how to find answers to my questions online and then simply I didn’t need open the door to ask questions
Once you reach the level where you are independent, you can remove this strategy and simply ask questions when needed because now when you ask questions you would have thoroughly searched the internet and probably would have a much more matured question that needs a specialist’s attention.
Step 4: Stop cutting yourself some slack “because you’re a fresher”
This is the toughest thing to do, especially in a supportive environment where everyone is tell you “It’s okay, you’re just a fresher you’ll get there soon”.
If you really want to get there, the first thing to do is stop cutting yourself some slack. Every mistake (and you’ll make lots of them) needs be taken seriously and with urgency.
Hold yourself to a higher bar, zero tolerance, expect more out of yourself. Ask yourself “How did I manage to make this mistake?” and push yourself further to never make such a mistake again. Learn from every mistake, leave no stone unturned.
Stop making those excuses, neither to yourself nor to your seniors. You can share your point of view or thought process but make sure it doesn’t seem or sound like an excuse. This is a great way to stop cutting yourself some slack.
That being said, make sure you don’t push yourself too hard, or you might burn out or might get demotivated. Cut yourself some slack but not too much.
Step 5: Take responsibility, ownership and be accountable
This is a huge difference between a lot of people and leaders or potential leaders. Although you’re just a fresher but it’s important to keep your eye on the target. We all want to be leaders someday, so why not start early.
You can start with taking responsibility for your actions and ownership of your tasks. Keep your eye on the ball, start small by controlling your actions. Ensure your tasks are done on time, plan your time accordingly. If you miss a deadline it’s okay but don’t make that into a habit. If you follow the step 3, all these would come naturally.
Remember it’s all about your personal brand and tell me if you’d use a product by a brand that’s not accountable or just keeps promising but never delivers on their promise. Much like you, I wouldn’t either.
All in all, be accountable for your actions and never give an excuse. If you miss a deadline, think to yourself as to how did you manage to miscalculate the complexity of your task and make sure next time you plan better.
It’s all about the iterative process of transformation.
Step 6: Invest in yourself and work hard
I quite agree with the quote “Nothing good in life is free” and rightly so, if someone takes effort in putting out good content or study material, they would want to get paid for it.
That being said, a lot of people don’t invest in themselves. They spend all their earnings to buy stuff they always wanted to buy. While it’s not particularly bad, remember to save some money on the sides to buy online courses or get entry passes to conferences where the leaders of the industry talk about new things they are up to and the challenges they face.
Online courses and conferences can be a great way to start interacting will like minded and inspiring people. Maybe team up with them on a cool side project.
This is a huge topic and I might not be able to do justice to it here. But I’ll write up another blog on this topic. But for now remember the knowledge you have is the best asset and you should spend time, money and energy enhancing your education.
Step 7: Your seniors aren’t always right, use your brain too
This is a fact, your seniors aren’t always right. Their judgement and decisions are based on prior experiences and in most cases they are right. But don’t follow them blindly.
Understand their thought process, go home read, and then discuss out different approaches with your seniors.
This would allow you to be a part of the bigger picture. Help you better understand different approaches to the same problem and how to pick one over the other. This is exactly what is called “Experience”.
If you do end up failing after not following the senior’s advice, make sure you follow the step 4 and take responsibility of it, don’t run away from it instead learn from it to not fail next time.
Step 8: Take criticism in the best possible manner
When a senior scolds you, or they give you feedback, instead of concentrating on what their words are, pay more attention to what they are trying to say and why. What is it that they want you to work on or can improve. This is the most valuable thing anyone can say to you.
Be grateful for the feedback and not defensive.
We went through a lot of points in this blog and some might even make you a bit more uncomfortable. The reason why I wrote this blog is provide an insight on the process since being a fresher or new to a company is hard and I wanted to share some orientation insights on how you can get started quickly.
- Pay attention to detail: this is a valuable skill and is often not given a lot of importance by a lot of people but it’s a key differentiator.
- Experiment (like a lot!!!): this is something that goes without saying, the more you practice the better you’ll become and the more you experiment, the different ways you’ll develop to reach the same place. Comes in handy when a lot of traditional approaches fail or maybe you’ll end up writing a single line of fancy syntax that’ll save you a whole file of code.
- Show Initiative: you’re new the firm, fresh set of eyes and whole new perspective. Don’t waste it, if you have an idea, pitch it. Even if it doesn’t take off, why not gather around some other freshers and work on it in your free time after office. Like a side project and don’t be surprised if it turns out better than what people had expected. This will go a long way too!
- Be on autopilot or rather proactive: today you’re new to the firm but soon enough you wouldn’t be. Try to stand on your own feet and start pulling your weight. There is nothing better than being independent and not needing someone checking up with you constantly to ask for status on your tasks. Instead being proactive towards your tasks and responsibilities.
- Pay it forward: Soon there would be another fresher or new guy who would look up to you and would need help in getting started. When that happens, it’s time to step up and help them but make sure you don’t make them dependent on you, help them take this journey.
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