questionshow do i get the most out of my first entry level…

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From an outside perspective, (someone not in your field) here is some general advice for making the most of an entry level job:

- keep notes on things the company, your boss, colleagues and you do right and wrong. This is the BEST advice I ever got (it was aimed at the boss level initially). One day you will be in a higher position and you will be able to use these notes to reflect on what to do and not to do in situations that arise.
- as others have said SOCIALIZE. Knowing the right people always helps and being known across areas in a company has always been helpful to me. I've definitely gotten help by tapping on resources I've gained in the company simply through social interactions and never would have known otherwise - this has helped me with projects as well as made me more versatile in general.
- use every opportunity to learn all the new stuff you can. If your company offers schooling, take full advantage.

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@meh3884: I can see that you already have a good feel for your company's environment, which is to your benefit. I've worked at companies that were very political, where you were careful about what you said because someone might use it later, down the road. I didn't like that environment very much, but it's hard to tell ahead of time, when you're young, about those kinds of things. Later on I avoided places like that.

Yours sounds average in that respect.

There are some professional groups you might think of joining. I note that LinkedIn has some groups devoted to automated testing. It's not really my area, and I can't offer specific advice. Metrics seems to be very related, and I used to belong to the mailing list on this site:

http://securitymetrics.org/content/Wiki.jsp

I also have a passing familiarity with the Risk Analysis folks:

http://www.sra.org/

{They only touch on your areas of interest.}

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@shrdlu: I genuinely appreciate the willingness to give me advice.

A word about my company, and the reason why I'm being a tad bit cryptic is - and I think this says a lot - I would not want them to know I'm asking this question /paranoid. The folks up high don't care much for those who don't stick around or don't want to, to be nice. Some stats on my team - let's see - I'm on a team of about 25, since I've started we've hired 3 new folks, 3 people have left the company, 1 has transferred away, and 3 have transferred here. Not sure if they come here because they want to or because they were needed - transfers are not always voluntary.

On the plus side, there is a large number of folks - and I haven't reached out much to them just yet (still being careful) - who have used my job has a springboard to move to other things. Many people started where I am. It's both a common place to move up from internally and a common place to leave the company from.

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@meh3884: I'd also suggest finding a text for a Survey of Languages. All the ones I have are ancient, but I'm sure there are newer ones out there. Here's my favorite list of languages:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_programming_languages_by_category

{Please note that the list is by no means authoritative; it's just interesting.}

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@meh3884: Look to see who has successfully transitioned into something else, whether or not they're from your group. There should be at least a couple who used to work in your group, and have now moved on to other things.

A brief word of advice, here. Please be cautious in asking around. You've already said you're bored. The person who leads your group will have to replace you whether you move within the company, or leave the company to work elsewhere. They may or may not be motivated to help you. Everyone is human.

I spent many hours helping to mentor our younger employees, and it's one of the few things I miss. Thank you so much for providing the opportunity to be helpful.

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@meh3884: You already have one thing mastered, which is that you communicate in a professional manner (this is probably one of the skills that I most often see lacking in people who are hoping to move up).

I'm not a fan of certifications, BTW. With the exception of a few Cisco advanced certs, they're mostly not worth much, if anything. I'm glad to see your degree is not from a diploma mill, and what your degree is in doesn't matter too much, once you have that first job. The important thing is that you've got a well-rounded education, and have clearly mastered the problem solving skill set that you need for almost anything.

Not knowing the particular culture of your company, I can't say for sure what the response will be to your wanting to move on. How many people in your group have moved on to other positions in the company? How many just left for other jobs, elsewhere?

[continued]

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@shrdlu I have a BS and BA from a top 40 university. I'd like to be a fluent automated tester. I have the analytical and test planning skills, I need the technical stuff to put it in action. I need to learn some languages more fluently...not necessarily to program with them, but to read, understand, and debug code. I can run and do basic edits to automation scripts, but I can't start from scratch and write my own. Same with advanced SQL.

I'm interested in your thoughts on internal transfers and why they are difficult to navigate (I definitely get the idea they are).

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@meh3884: It's funny that you mentioned college because I am finishing up my degree right now (taking me a while because I am going very part time) but I absolutely agree that the majority of skills gained there pale in comparison to outside classes or certifications. I continue to go because the degree itself is obviously desirable to, say, HR, but the opportunities my school provides (hundreds of jobs being emailed to me from my department monthly, including full time positions), the job fairs my college offers, student discounts to IT conferences, student discounts to certificates (sweet!), and most important the people I meet there are some of the coolest people I'll meet and you never know what may surface. Other than that I really wish I just dropped out LOL because I would love that extra time back in my week.

And on a side note, I love certifications and believe them to be invaluable--some people disagree and that is okay too. But get your feet wet and see for yourself!

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@bluescreenofwin: Thanks! I think getting certifications/coursework outside the company may be what I need to do. I think after I've been here some number of years, I actually can pursue course work on their dime in some sense; I pay upfront and apply for reimbursement of some/all of it.

My main complaint there is that I learn infinitely better on the job than in a class (which I why I gave up my programming major in college). But I guess that's my catch 22, if I want on the job training, I have to take a job at a company that will hire me without the classroom time, so then I get a job like this. Now it's in my court to build on that...I think what I need is a mixture - hopefully a little classroom and a lot of on the job.

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@meh3884: You still left too many things out. I'll try to offer some suggestions, but you're making this harder for me to give you what I consider to be decent answers.

You said degree, but unrelated. Some of the best people I ever worked with had off the wall degrees. I'm curious as to what yours is, and much more important, where it's from. No specifics, just whether or not it's an accredited school, and if it's a BA/BS or not.

The reason I asked about whether you wrote code or not is because that would guide my suggestions about what your next steps should be. You absolutely do not want to burn your bridges with your current position. Jobs are hard to come by in these times. It sounds very possible for you to do an internal transfer, but this is a mine field, and it would need to be done carefully.

What would you like to be doing? What skills would you like to pick up? What skills do you already possess?

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Cont.

We have a decent philosophy of training new positions for current employees, so I do feel like there is some hope for an internal transfer, either in the next year or next couple of years. We just don't have much, or any, cross training once you're at a given position - or much of an opportunity for more training once you are considered proficient at your job (like I am now).

I feel a bit weird about the prospect of internal transfers because we're already looking for new folks for my position on my team...I was even hired because of several people quitting last year :-/, so just saying "ope, I'm bored so I'm going to team X to do something different" doesn't seem like the most gracious option. But maybe I shouldn't care? I don't dislike my company or my team, and I don't necessarily want to jump ship after working on just one of many teams for only a year, but every day has been a struggle to find a way to be productive without resorting to busy work for about 4 months.

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@meh3884: My morale is this: if the company does not cultivate a culture of sharing knowledge and letting you go off and do your own thing, learn more skills on the company dime, or are just not very helpful in that department period then you need to look for another job. The experience you gain there will be invaluable for a resume on paper but terrible in real life applicable skills if you're stuck, say, running backups on an exchange server all day for your tenure at the company. And a high attrition rate is extremely common for generation Y, for a lot of reasons, but I won't go there.

TL;DR: Keep your job, it looks great on a resume, but you can't change the culture of a company. Look for more jobs, enhance your skills, get certifications, meet people and SOCIALIZE! This is very important because the right hands handing in your resume can mean the difference between a job there and not even a call back. Hope I helped a little.

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@meh3884: I'll try to give a bit of advice--don't know how much help I will be because we are in very different facets in the IT world.

I interned at a city for 3 years doing very boring work. The systems administrator would keep information from me on purpose for job security and the lead technician knew substantially less than I did (I hold several certificates from CompTIA, even back then, while I was specifically in school for CIS with an emphasis in IT security--more on this later). I frequently asked for an actual job and not an intern and he said he would ask but it never came into fruition (whether or not he asked is another story).

The last 2 years I was in that job I frequently job hunted and would apply to everything I got my hands on. Finally I landed a great job at a large nearby city and it took everything I had to get it (adding more certificates to my resume, doing contract work on the side with hospitals, and just basic filling up my resume with projects, etc) More..

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@shrdlu: I figured someone like you might come along and look for a lot more info :) I purposely left it a bit ambiguous because I'm just looking for general advice, but I can definitely provide a bit more.

I'm a software tester at a ~10,000 employee company. I've been trying rather hard to get into more automation for our ST and java applications, but it's like pulling teeth; our automators (and I can't blame them), don't want to give up their time to let me sit in with them/train me. I have a non-technical degrees w/ some programming courses. I've had 3 reviews so far (they do a lot first year) which have been great, they've made it clear that they like me, but they aren't doing much when I let them know I'm bored. We also have a rather horrible attrition rate for new/young employees.

Again, though, I'm not looking for specific things/jobs/skills to do. Just advice on direction and timing to do it - I know the things I want to do - just not sure how and when I should go after them.

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You've been there a year. That's not very long, when it comes to job history on your resume. Smalltalk makes me VERY nostalgic. I do want to point out that it's not a dead technology, even if it seems esoteric.

I can actually offer some suggestions, but first I'd like some answers. Please note that zero of my suggestions will involve looking for a new job. Okay, here are those questions.

1. What operating systems are you involved with on a daily basis? Weekly?

2. You say IT. That's not really much to go on. Are you doing system administration? Programming? Are you writing Smalltalk programs, or administering systems that are used for Smalltalk?

3. Do you have a degree? Certifications?

4. Have you had a review? What's the size of the company, in revenue, and in population? For comparison, the last company I worked at had approximately 120,000 people, give or take.

5. What operating systems do you know? (Linux, Solaris, Windows Server, etc)

I'll be back, later.

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Appreciate the exposure to something more interesting than the usual C#/perl/etc.
If you're not given enough work, find new ways to make yourself useful on the side. I'm sure you can think of ways to automate or streamline a current system.
Keep one eye out for new job opportunities.