First when you leave the starting systems for the first time pick a home system, like Cubeo(for imperial), Sol(for Feds), and whatever systems the alliance has for independent, for example it doesn’t have to be a capital system for a faction it just has to be a place you see yourself staying at for a while. It’s not needed at the start but it’ll generally help for everything I’m gonna say from here on out.
When you pick your home system go to one of the stations and grind out the reputation bar on all of the system factions doing so not only increases your mission rewards substantially they also increase bounty rewards, and discounts to stuff produced within the system. Having you’re reputation bar maxed out in one system can turn a data delivery mission that would’ve been 15,000 credits it turns into 100,000 up to a 1,000,000.
Now if you want to get into combat I recommend finding your nearest nav point near a star (generally in a system that’s not in anarchy) for a new player getting into combat all you have to do really if hang around a nav point and take a couple of pot shots at whoever system security is shooting at and you’ll get the kill credit and the combat experience. Depending on the set up of your ship you could be in an more involved role to the fights or you can be more relaxed and kill steal system security’s kills (they won’t care as long as you don’t accidentally shoot them)
If you wanted to be a space trucker you could haul items from one station to another station in the same system or to various other systems (I’ll have a link posted at the end of this to help you out) doing so takes time but not as much as mining and works on your trade experience.
Or.. if you wanted to get to elite in explorations really easy you could take a trip 1,000lys out of the ‘bubble’ scanning every system you come across with your FSS and returning to a station to sell all of that data. It’ll give you a crap ton of money and a lot of ranks in exploration. If you want to be set for pretty much a while take the earnings from that 1,000 year trip buy a Diamond back strip it down to nothing but a fuel scoop and the best FSD drive you can buy and take a 50,000ly trip from your home system to the galactic center 25,000lys one way while scanning every system. It’s going to suck it’s a long ass trip easily over a thousand jumps one way but when I did it I went from barely being able to afford an anaconda to having 450,000,000 (actually more like 750,000,000 but a federal corvette ate a lot of that)
link one will help you find stations with stuff that you need, or stations that sells certain modules or ships, plus helping you with getting those trade ranks with the loop and multi hop route
link two is a site that helps you see what builds people are running for their ships in the game for combat, mining, pvp/pve, Xenos-hunting, hauling, ferrying passengers, and exploration.