How To Be Valuable At A New Job

Starting a new job is a mixed blessing.  Sure there's the honeymoon period where everything is new, excited, and untainted.  At the same time, you often feel (and rightly so) that you're slowing everyone down while you come up to speed.  Even in places that do on-boarding well — the ones where your computer is ready, your network account is set up, and you get your parking badge day one — you'll still have a ton of questions you need answered before you get started on real work.  This is especially true for developers since you'll need to know all about the systems you'll be working on, the build process, version control locations, dependencies, tool chains, and everything else.  As much as you need this info, though, it's no fun being the one asking question after question that "everyone" else knows.  Wouldn't it be great if you could show up on day one and have the answers to all of the basic questions sitting there for you to read until you know enough to ask good questions?  And therein lies the secret:

Volunteer to write the on-boarding manual.

Who else will understand the needs of the newbie better than a newbie?  Writing the thing shouldn't be that hard since you'll need to learn everything that it contains anyway.  As an added bonus, people will be a lot more tolerant of the constant questioning if it leads to you being the last one that has to ask so many questions.  Besides, you can't do anything anyway because you don't yet know enough to do anything.  This is beyond "2 birds, 1 stone", this is, "The entire flock, no shots fired".

Now, there may be a few reasons that it doesn't make sense for you to write the on-boarding manual:

  • You can't write very well.
  • You don't like talking to people.
  • It's too much work.

Notice that these are also reasons that it doesn't make sense for you to remain employed.

So the next time you start a new gig, start writing down all of the things that you wish you could have learned without asking.  You'll learn more, help the newbies of the future, and actually be able to contribute during your own awkward newbie phase.

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