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I am in my second week of a new software job and have yet to be assigned to a team or even been given access to the code base, because of this I have been sitting since day one with no ability to do any work. A Sr. developer hired on the same day as me was assigned to a team 3 days ago and has started doing real work while I have not even been talked to by my boss about what the plan for me is. How long is it appropriate for me to wait before I approach my boss and ask him what the plan for me is?

Sorry if the title is a bit odd, was not really sure how to structure it.

Edit: I am a developer in the USA.

  • 7
    What, if anything, have you been given to do? Training videos? documentation, etc.? Have you really been sitting at your desk for a week and a half without being asked to do anything whatsoever? – djohnson10 Jan 8 '15 at 17:58
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    @djohnson10 I have not been asked to do anything so I have personally been checking out the intranet site, the wiki, and researching some tech used here that I have not used before so I am not idle. – Matthew Verstraete Jan 8 '15 at 18:00
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    If you're unclear of your objectives, it's always appropriate to talk to your boss. That's why your boss exists. You should not wait for him to come to you. – Roger Jan 8 '15 at 18:07
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    Does your boss know you still work there? I would make it a point to be in his/her office once every morning when I arrived and once every evening before I went home until either 1) I was given a project; 2) I was fired; 3) I gave up and left. – NotMe Jan 8 '15 at 22:56
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    The only tweak I'd make to @ChrisLively 's advice is to replace (3) with "until I got bored and found another job. If a company is crazy enough to pay you to do nothing (even though you're checking in twice a day), you'd be crazy not to take the paycheck while you search for more fulfilling work. – Allen Gould Jan 8 '15 at 23:03
36

If you have received no direction from your boss or HR regarding the onboarding process, I think it's ideal to ask your boss for a plan anytime within the first three days of the job. The fact that you've waited a week and a half isn't necessarily a problem, but I would not delay any further. You want to appear eager to get started and make an impact immediately.

As soon as possible, ask your boss, in person, to give you a brief overview of their onboarding and/or training process, and if he indicates that there will be a delay before these activities begin, ask him if there is anything you can do in the meantime. If your boss appears to be too busy for that discussion, ask him when you can have that conversation.

Sometimes, in smaller companies, the onboarding process will be delayed because your boss and/or other trainers are fighting fires. If that's the case, you can earn some bonus points by asking what you can do to help immediately.

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    Good thinking. Ask the boss if the boss is ready to give an assignment/project. If not, ask if the boss if there is any way you can help the boss and if there is anyone you can help. If no such luck, ask what you can do to get ready for the next project. Yeah, and ask now. Don't wait until the next full moon before you ask. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jan 8 '15 at 18:34
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I've been in situations like this....just go and ask your boss what you should be focusing on. At the very least, you should be reading anything documented by your team as well as looking online at the technologies your project is using. From first glance, it seems like this is just a result of horrible management.

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I always ask for actual work my first day on the job as soon as my computer is set up and I have filled out the HR paperwork. Now learning the new system is actual work and the time to do it may vary, so as soon as you feel you understand enough to get started on a task, go ask for one. But knowing what specific tasks you are going to be working on as soon as you know enough is helpful in triaging what to learn, so you want that information on day 1 if you can get it. Just let your boss know when you feel ready to start if you get it then because priorities may have changed in the week or so since he gave it to you.

4

When I started my first programming job, I felt like they didn't know what to do with me. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I used my time to study hard using their training programs that tracked my progress, and I ticked off as much progress as I could as fast as I could while making a good faith effort at in-depth learning.

I also was in daily contact with my boss. I sent my boss daily email updates, citing my progress in the training programs and the other material I was studying and learning. My understanding was that I would continue doing as I was until specifically assigned something.

I continued like this for nearly a month, and then I was assigned the responsibility of signing off on code and releasing it to staging and production. Having my MBA probably didn't hurt me in getting this responsibility, but I took it very seriously and leveraged it into further work with increasing levels of responsibility and opportunities for me to learn.

You are potentially in a similar position. You should take the initiative to make the absolute most of the resources available to you. If you can do it, and it is measured, do it. If you run out of measured activity, but you can find things that make you more valuable to them, do it. Starting off with the right strategy may make all the difference in your career. Good luck.

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