Software Engineer New Grad: Excelling at Your First Job
You’ve finished your schooling for becoming a software engineer. Congratulations! This is a time that’s both exciting and a bit nerve-wracking. After graduation, the next natural step is getting a job in your field. This might sound intimidating, but with the right preparation, resources, and knowledge, you’ll get a new job before you know it and start your path to a successful career in the amazing field of software engineering.
What it’s like as a Software Engineer New Grad
Coming fresh off your graduation, you’ll likely be experiencing a gamut of emotions, and you’ll probably be anxious to find a job and thrive in the position. At this point, it’s important to take a breath and step back. You definitely want to start looking as soon as possible, but going in with the right knowledge and a level head is essential. Keep in mind, software engineering specialists are in high demand, but it’s still a competitive job market. You need to make sure to make a good impression to any potential employers and put your name out there in the right way if you want to land the job of your dreams. Let’s go through some rules and guidelines to follow for browsing the job market and finding success in your first software engineering job.
Rule #1: Plan, Plan, Plan
Planning and preparation are paramount to your success. If you haven’t graduated yet, now is the time to start your planning. If you have a lot of time left in college, that’s great. There are already steps you can take for building your career. Many of the biggest companies will want you to have several internships under your belt if you want to work for them full-time after college. Your best bet is to start small. If it’s your first or second year of school, now is the time to get any tech or software internship that you can. Obviously, you can be selective if you have varied options, but any internship will help you get a better internship your following year. You definitely want to have at least one internship completed by Junior year.
Keep in mind, the industry giants like Google and Facebook will want you to have at least 2 software engineering internships before you can intern for them. So the sooner you start on your internships the better. Having varied work experience and prestigious internships when you leave college will give you a much better chance at finding a good job. Some companies will even offer you a full time job when you graduate if you performed impressively enough during your internship with them.
If you’re coming across this blog before you even go to college, you can begin planning for your future software engineering career too! There are organizations such as MLT and SEO that offer internships for minorities. Not only will this look great on a college application and on future resumes, it’s invaluable experience and it can help you determine if a career in software engineering is the right path for you. Also, you can start developing your skills now. There are plenty of free resources online, such as Khan Academy, where you can take software engineering classes and learn more about the profession.
This all isn’t to say that it’s impossible to get a job if you haven’t gone through all these internships or if you’re close to graduation. It just might be a little harder for you to get your foot in the door.
Rule #3: Cold email engineering managers at tech companies
When you’re ready to start applying for jobs, you need to make sure to stand out from the crowd. Remember, there are plenty of fresh graduates just like you, eager to get their start too. You can make a big impression on potential employers by cold emailing the engineering managers at various tech companies you want to work for.
If you decide to do this, make sure you make each email personalized and unique in some way. It’s fine to use a template, but don’t copy and paste your emails word for word. Let the engineering managers know why you’re a good fit for their company, why you’re interested in working there, and more details that you think are relevant. You don’t want to make the email overlong and lose their attention, so it’s important to be succinct.
Hiring managers will appreciate your initiative and it will certainly give them more incentive to take a closer look at your resume, especially if other applicants haven’t taken the time to do this.
Also, you don’t necessarily need to only send these emails to companies that say their hiring. You might catch someone’s eye with your email and they could either save your application for when they are hiring, or even forward it to one of their colleagues in the industry.
If you’re not sure how to construct an email like this, you can find plenty of examples online to help you, or you could have an advisor at Career Karma guide you through the process.
Rule #4: Reach out to University Alumni who Work at Tech Companies and Ask for Informational Interviews and Coffee Meetings
When you’re admitted to a university, you instantly have a huge resource available to you at all times. Reaching out to alumni from the software engineering program is a great way to build connections and learn a lot from people who have been in your position and went on to have successful careers. Alumni have been exactly where you are, whether you’re a freshman looking for an internship or a graduate looking for your first job. They know what it’s like, meaning they’ll be able to empathize with you. Most alumni are happy to offer their wisdom, experiences, and even their connections to those hoping to make it as a software engineer.
Unlike the cold emails to hiring managers, these reach out emails tend to be more casual. A simple email sincerely asking them if they wouldn’t mind giving you 15 minutes of their day for a coffee can do wonders for your career and your network of connections. Often, they’re more than willing to give you at least 15 minutes of their time, if not more. Creating genuine connections with alumni can lead to internships and even jobs down the line, so don’t underestimate the power of a coffee meeting!
If you’re wondering how to find contact information for alumni, there’s often a directory of alumnis that you can access. Also, you can ask your professors if they could connect you to some alumni. Having someone facilitate an introduction can make it that much easier to set up a coffee meeting.
Speaking of your professors, don’t be afraid to ask them for the same thing! They likely have had a wide variety of experiences in the software engineering industry, and buying them a coffee to pick their brain about it can be enlightening and lead to more connections.
Rule #5: If can’t get any Internships, try to Become a TA for a CS Course
Internships can sometimes be difficult to come by. If you’re having trouble getting into an internship program, you don’t have to fret. There are other ways to get experience and build your resume. Becoming a teacher’s assistant for a Computer Sciences course can help you learn a lot, gain experience, and possibly strengthen your resume enough to get an internship next semester.
Rule #6: Become Apart of the Team
When you finally get that internship or job you’ve been waiting for, you want to succeed and thrive in the company. Starting a new job in any industry can make anyone a bit nervous, but with the right plan of action you can make a great impression and stand out in the eyes of management. The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure to truly make an effort to become part of the team.
Software engineer jobs, especially at the entry-level, will often require you to collaborate with a team. The more in sync the team is, the better the work output tends to be. Joining an already established team can be intimidating, but that fear can quickly go away by putting your best foot forward and working hard to make meaningful contributions to the team. Make sure to be friendly to your new team members, offer to help where you can, and try and figure out how you best fit in the team. If your team asks you to join them for activities outside of work, accept the invitation if you’re able. Building a friendly rapport with your team members can help you feel more comfortable at work and break down communication barriers. Plus, going to work is always more enjoyable if you get along well with your coworkers.
Rule #7: Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions
One of the most common mistakes new hires or new interns make is being afraid to ask questions. Since it’s a new job at a new company, you don’t necessarily know how everything works. It’s perfectly natural to have some questions, and your coworkers and managers will be happy to answer them for you. It’s always better to ask questions than to try and do something you’re not sure about and then making a mistake because you’re afraid to ask about it first.
Put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s been there longer than you. If a new hire asked you a question, would you be annoyed? Probably not, so don’t be scared to clear up anything you’re unsure about. Everyone goes through an initial learning stage, but soon enough you’ll be self-sufficient and the one answering questions!
Rule #8: Get to Know Your Company’s Coding Guidelines
One of the first things you can do to prepare yourself for your new position is to go thorough and study your new company’s coding standards. Coding standards are guidelines and best practices that your company generally follows when working on a project. Most tech companies will have coding style guide and familiarizing yourself before starting your new job or shortly after starting will put you a step ahead.
Rule #9: Be Open and Available
When you start your new job or internship, don’t assume anything. Different companies will have different ways of doing things, and it’s your job to adapt to that, not the other way around. Always make sure you’re very open and available. If someone asks for your help with a task or project, accept if you have time and if you’re able to do it. Always be open to suggestions and be willing to learn from your coworkers and superiors. The more open and available you are, the quicker you’ll fit in with your new company and the better you’ll be able to perform your job.
Rule #10: Take the Time to Learn New Things
Finally, software engineering is an ever-evolving industry. To stay on the cutting edge of what’s happening in the software engineering world, you have to be willing to continuously learn and be open to new knowledge. Taking the time to learn new things and develop your skill will ensure that you truly excel in your career path as a software engineer.
In summation, here’s some key lessons you can take from this blog:
- Take on internships to build your resume
- Ask professors and alumni for guidance
- Consider being a TA for a CS course
- Email engineering managers at tech firms while job hunting
- Reach out to your alumni connections for suggestions and advice
Starting a New Job
- Make an effort to be an integral part of your new team
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions at your new job
- Learn your company’s coding guidelines to be better prepared
- Always be open and available at work
- Take time to learn new things and develop your skills
By following these general guidelines, you’ll be more prepared when entering the job market and starting your new job.
Need More Guidance Preparing for Graduating as a Software Engineer?
You don’t have to go through this whole process alone. Here at Career Karma, we’re happy to guide and advise software engineers through their college careers, and help you prepare for graduation. Sign up with Career Karma today to be connected with peers, coaches, and mentors who are ready to help you accelerate your software engineering career.