We’re a couple weeks out from college graduation season, and class of 2017 students are starting to make the move from the classroom to the conference room in their first full-time jobs. While job prospects and hiring trends vary by major, computer science graduates will be happy to discover that their skills are in high demand. For some of these coders, this will be their first experience working in an office. For many more with developer internships under their belt, they’ll have a taste for what it’s like working for and contributing to a business, and they’ll have an early leg up.

Regardless of degree or previous work experience, there are some tips every developer should know as they head into the office for the first time. Ready to take on the real world? Here are three ways to start off strong at your first developer job.

Ask Questions

Your supervisor will anticipate that you won’t know every answer as questions come up on the job, and they don’t expect you to be an expert right out of the gate. Asking smart questions shows that a new employee is engaged and cares more about doing a good job than pretending to know the solution.

If you’re working at a large company, there already may be specific or standardized software practices in place. Be clear on that workflow and check in to make sure your contribution doesn’t create additional work for those involved later in the process. Even if you’re solely focused on bug fixes starting out, your tasks in development should be clearly dictated and you should understand where you fit in your team. For those working at smaller companies, where you may have a chance to get involved in many different projects, embrace that freedom and try to think big picture about future projects. Convey your ideas to your peers or supervisor and ask what steps you’ll need to take and who you’d need to consult with to bring some of your visions to life.

Pair Up with Veteran Programmers

Even though you’ll want to go to your boss with questions about your role and responsibilities, you may not want to go to him or her with every work-related question you have. Find someone at the company with more experience than you, possibly a developer a few years out of college or a company veteran who sits near you. This colleague will be the person you can turn to with questions about work-life balance, company culture, office politics, and more.

And consider pair programming. Pair programming is not only helpful for new hires, but it can also benefit programmers of similar skill levels. Seeing the teaching and instruction opportunity in pair programming, some companies may encourage their newest employees to seek out a programmer in this way to help them find their footing early on in their careers. If your company hasn’t tried it, consider suggesting it (and use our article, linked above, to support your request!).

These relationships will become even more important as questions related to specific programming problems arise. If you’re stuck on a problem, this is the person you’ll turn to to ask for help or advice for trying to solve it. Moreover, having a person to bounce bigger picture ideas off of in the office can help offer feedback and insight before approaching your boss or other stakeholders with your proposals.

Keep Learning

College won’t teach you everything you need to know for your first job. In fact, the most important thing it will teach you is how to learn. Most of your real world education will happen on the job, as you witness how teams work, see how projects come together, and understand where you fit. Even so, there are always more opportunities to grow your technical knowledge. Read books and blogs on development and dive into some of the nitty gritty facts your professors didn’t teach you. Some may come up as you’re working and then you’ll have a sense for what to do. Furthermore, as it comes up in conversation, let your supervisor know that you’re doing extra reading on specific topics related to your job as well as the industry more generally. Demonstrating that you’re eager to continue learning will show initiative and a willingness to grow as a developer.

An important part of continuous learning is keeping up with the conversations going on in your industry, and one way to do so is to ask and answer questions that arise in the online community of programmers on Stack Overflow. Building your knowledge by asking questions to more veteran coders can help fill in the gaps and help you progress in your coding career.


If you’re a recent grad still looking for a job, don’t worry; you’re not alone and Stack Overflow Jobs is here to help. Browse entry-level positions and internships right here.