This time of the year, two years ago, I was at the end of my undegraduate journey. I had plenty less than ideal things going on, though I had secured a job offer.
Saying, “I graduated 2 years ago,” still doesn’t feel real. Like, I still feel like I relate with new grads more than my experienced peers, whom typically are married, have kids, etc.
Anyway, with so much time being at home these days, I have been getting flashbacks from my first job. I’m not sure what I would have done differently as a new grad. However, my experience has more or less affected how I work with new grads.
So here is my personal checklist, as someone more experienced-but-not-so-much than a new grad. I’m writing this today while I still have a good enough memory of what it feels like to be on the other side. In some cases, this might apply to newcomers (team transfer, etc) in general!
Being the newest person in the room, I always assume everyone knows about this job better than I do. I also had trouble asking for help, since my peers are probably busy with their own things too.
The highlights of my first 3 months working full-time were one-on-one sessions with my manager. I felt safe to express frustration without thinking I would be perceived as incompetent.
Some memorable lines:
- if the team and I signed off the code review, then any bugs belong together, not yours.
- don’t be too hard on yourself, I would have made the same mistake
- do you like what you’re working on?
At this point, I have gone through multiple cycles of being the onboarding guide. There are times I would overhear coworkers saying, “This work by [new coworker] is really good.” Then weeks pass by, in some discussion with the said new coworker, I would mention how the team liked their work, to which they respond, “Oh really?”
People new to the team are generally mentally prepared that they have to adapt. They will listen to whatever the team say.
Tell them that they are doing an excellent job. Show them that you appreciate their contribution.
It takes less than a minute for you to share the kindness, yet it’s going to have a rippling effect on their productivity and self-advocacy.
At one point on Twitter, I came across the following line (paraphrased):
A newbie’s confusion is as valuable as the senior contributor operating on autopilot (siloed / tribal knowledge)
When faced with a question asking for direction, it’s easy for us to say, “Oh this is how we do it here,” and forget about it. However, this is a golden clue of a missing information about to your team / organization, which you wouldn’t discover without having a fresh pair of eyes.
With that said, resist the urge to solve it with writing documentation without first walking down their steps. If such documentation exist, would they have found it in the first place when they need it? If not, then maybe there is more things to do than just writing it down.
consciously provide space#
Learning isn’t the easiest task and different people cope differently with it. To a team of 5, every existing member is learning about 1 new person. Yet, the new person is learning about their work and how to work with 5 new people.
Give them some space. Make sure the necessary resources are available to them.
While folks will listen to their manager, they certainly listen to their peers too, especially the ones with different title. Be kind and be an example you wish you had.