Here are a few things I wish I had known right off the bat as a Second Life resident:
1. Fill out your profile.
When I first joined SL I had an awfully hard time figuring out what the point of the whole thing was. No one really talked to me and people seemed either self-absorbed or shallow. No one really approached me and I was not meeting new people. However, someone eventually gave me the advice to fill out my profile. Once that was done I started to get lots of IM's from people passing by!
So yes, people DO read your profile, and they WILL approach you if they are interested in what you have in it! This should be one of your first and most important steps when beginning your second life.
2. Make friends!
Making friends is much easier once your profile is filled out. People who are interested in what you have to say about yourself will approach you, and you can do the same by checking out what others have to say about themselves.
When you start making friends, Second Life will really open itself up to you! You will have more fun when you are online, as well as people to chat and do things with!
3. Find places, events, discussions, classes that you like.
This is another important step to making friends, and for just having something to do. There are all kinds of things happening all the time in Second Life. You are also more likely to meet people you will enjoy being around if you go to happenings you yourself enjoy. Chances are if you meet someone at something you chose to go to yourself you already have some common ground with them.
Check out the destination guide and search for events to find things you enjoy doing.
4. Low on Lindens?
Headshot I used for hosting at Frank's Elite Jazz.
Find a job! Or a gig or whatever! There are many possibilities, from teaching to hosting at an establishment, to dancing ... whatever you can imagine! Find something you like to do and chances are you can find a way to earn some lindens doing it.
My first job in SL was dancing at a burlesque club. It was a lot of fun and I met people that I continue to enjoy spending time with.
5. Join store groups to receive gifts.
For some, this item should be at the top of the list! I have listed it last because I wanted some sort of consistency in the list, but this is one of the things I wish I had known from the start.
You don't need lindens to look amazing!
Many stores give away gifts and freebies if you join their groups. I put together almost my entire wardrobe in this way and am very satisfied with the result.
Here is a link to a post I made about one such store that gives gifts to patrons who join their group.