Your first few months in a new job can be a bit of a whirlwind, with a huge amount to take in. Being in your
probation can make it all the more daunting, and you might feel like you’re under the spotlight and can’t put a
foot wrong. Although it’s true that during this trial phase, you’re likely to be under more scrutiny, there’s no need
to panic, and you shouldn’t let it put you off throwing yourself into your new role.
To start with, probationary periods are really common, although there is no law about the length of a
probationary period and it can vary from as little as a month to six months or even longer, depending on the
employer and industry. It’s important that you know the length of your probation, so double-check your
employment contract or ask your Recruitment Consultant.
Probation works both ways; it gives the employer time to decide whether a new employee is competent and a
great fit for both the role and the company. But it’s also your chance to really assess if the job is right for you,
with the option to walk away if it doesn’t work out. As there’s usually a shorter notice period during probation, it’s
quicker and easier to move on during this stage of your employment.
Why do people fail to pass probation?
It’s estimated that just under one in five new employees fails to successfully pass their probation period. Rather
than this being due to a lack of competence, the main reasons people fail are:
- An unwillingness to accept feedback
- Lack of motivation
- Not having the right temperament for the job
- Poor interpersonal skills (such as listening and communication)
We take a look at the dos and don’ts for your first few months in a new role, to help you settle in and sail through
your probation with confidence.
How to pass your probation
- Have the right attitude
Having the right skills for the job is a key part of why you were hired, but if this is paired with the wrong
attitude, you’ll be giving your employer reason to doubt whether you’re going to be a good fit in their team.
People want to be around someone who’s easy to get along with, adds value to the team and has a great
work ethic. Your new employer will also be looking out for that winning personality and can-do attitude you
showed them at the interview stage. Smiling, positive body language, and being approachable all help to
create a good impression and demonstrate you have the right attitude and temperament. The first few weeks
in a new job can be stressful, but try to remain optimistic and keep a positive mind-set.
- Be professional
It’s always important to be professional at work, and this is especially true while on probation as you’re under
extra scrutiny. From dressing appropriately, to being punctual and coming to meetings prepared, keep in
mind what will make a positive or negative impression.
It might help to look at probation as an extended job interview. It’s one way of reminding yourself to always
put your best foot forward and highlight not only your skills but also your reliability and professionalism.
- Be visible
It’s tempting to think that if you keep your head down and just do the job, you’ll be able to coast through
probation. But that’s not always the case, and it’s not quite the right attitude to have. No matter how hard
you work, unless you’re willing to engage with your colleagues, it will be hard for others to see how well you fit
in. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – it shows you’re interested and want to learn. But don’t ask the same
questions again and again, as your colleagues might feel you’re taking up too much of their time, and not
listening to what they have to say.
Try to find opportunities to shine; without being over-bearing, look out for chances to go above and beyond
expectations, such as volunteering to help out on a task or project that plays to your personal strengths.
Getting involved and finding areas you can contribute will help make you an indispensable member of the
team and a valued colleague in no time.
- Listen to feedback
During your probation, you’re likely to have more frequent one-to-one sessions and feedback from your
manager. This is completely normal and helps to keep track of how you’re doing as well as highlighting any
areas for improvement.
Take all feedback on-board and be professional even if there is some negative feedback; you should show
that you can handle receiving constructive criticism and are committed to making changes where needed. If
you’re still unsure in certain areas of your new role, it’s okay to ask for more feedback or extra training – it
shows your manager that you want to do your best.
- Leave early or slack off
While you’re on probation and getting to grips with the role, your workload might be a bit lighter than your
colleagues’. Don’t use this as an excuse to leave early or slack off. Be proactive and ask if you can help with
any other tasks. It’s good to demonstrate that you’re keen to support the team’s overall success and not just
interested in your own goals. Being willing to put in the odd extra hour, especially when it’s to help your
colleagues will create a great impression with your employer, and your team will appreciate the effort.
- Stay glued to your mobile phone
Keep your personal devices under wraps at work. When you’re at work, focus on the tasks at hand, and only
use your personal mobile devices when you’re on a break or finished for the day. Some companies may have
a relaxed policy about personal device use at work, but don’t assume it’s fine to be scrolling through your
apps at 9.30am (even if your colleagues are doing it). It can harm the great impression you’ve made so far
if you give your manager reason to think you’re more interested in your social feed than your tasks for the
day, so play it safe, especially during probation.
- Take anything for granted
You might feel confident that you’re doing a great job, but always stay on your toes during your probation to
make sure you’re still giving 100%.
What happens if my probation is extended?
Sometimes, even if you think you did your best, your probation period may get extended. While this may be
disheartening, don’t take it too personally. It doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t doing a good job; it could
simply be that the company needs more time to assess your competence and suitability for the role. If this
happens, try to get an idea of what’s missing in your performance. Knowing what areas you need to work on will
help you make any adjustments needed.
What if I don’t pass probation?
It’s unlikely you wouldn’t pass your probation, but if you don’t, try not to be discouraged. The role might not have
be quite right for you anyway – and in this market where candidates are rare, there will be plenty of other
opportunities around the corner. Stay positive and take everything that you’ve learned to help you prepare for
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