You’ve been offered a great position at a company you’ve wanted to work at for a long time. You aced the application process, the interview and you’re finally about to start the new job — and you can’t wait to relax. The only problem is, you’ve got a three-month probation period you have to pass before you can finally settle in, which is making you anxious.
Many businesses require new staff to pass a probation period, but it can feel like an extra hoop you have to jump through once you’ve landed a new job. It can be nerve-wracking to feel like you’re being constantly assessed, which can lead to stress and impair your performance.
So what is expected of you during your probation period — and how can you make sure it goes smoothly?
“A probation period is a trial period of employment used when an employee first starts working at an organisation. They mostly last between one and six months although it can vary,” says Lee Owen, director at Hays Accountancy & Finance.
“The point of a probation period is so a company can determine whether an employee is suitable for the role, and so an employee to work out whether the role and organisation lives up to their expectations.”
Sometimes, a probation period may be put in place for employees who have just been promoted, or for those who are experiencing significant dips in performance. In both cases, the probation period is to assess their suitability for the role in question.
“During a probation period, a new employee will complete all necessary onboarding and training so they are equipped to carry out the tasks and responsibilities of the role,” Owen says.
“Once this has taken place, it’s expected that the employee will begin carrying these out. Inductions and shadowing will often take place in a probation period as well. At key points during the probation period and once the period comes to an end, the employee should expect reviews with their line manager to discuss how they are progressing.”
What five things should you make sure you do in order to pass your probation period?
Be visible but unobtrusive
Everyone wants to make a good impression at a new job — and part of this is making yourself known. You want people to think you are indispensable and become a key member of the team.
“You’ll no doubt want to stand out and get yourself noticed during your probation period, but consider how you can do this without being obtrusive,” Owen says. “Absolutely put yourself forward, ask questions, meet your colleagues and learn as much as possible, but try to also work independently and be mindful of others’ responsibilities and workloads.”
Make lasting relationships
You’ll probably meet a lot of people during your probation, and while remembering names can be overwhelming, try to make the most of these new connections.
“Networking is a vital tool in your career, so even if you don’t stay at the company for the long term, you might benefit further down the line from the connections you made during your probation period,” Owen adds.
The thought of getting feedback is enough to make anyone sweat, but it can actually be really helpful during a probation period. If there are any issues, it shows you’re keen to make improvements and develop.
“A probation period is usually one of quick growth and progression, as there’s often a lot to learn about a new role. To make sure you are going in the right direction, seek feedback where possible,” Owen says. “At a minimum you should have a review halfway through your probation and again at the end, but perhaps request more frequent one-to-one sessions to make sure you’re staying on track.”
Remember it works both ways
While a probation period is essentially a way of trialling a new employee, it should provide mutual benefits for the employee and company. While the company is assessing you as a potential employee, you can assess the company too. You can use this period to work out if it is the right job and company for you.
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If you are going into a new role, it’s inevitable that you will make a few slip ups along the way. It’s not easy to start a new job — even if you aren’t doing anything particularly wrong, businesses have different ways of operating.
“What’s important in your probation period and indeed throughout your whole career is to hold yourself accountable, apologise, explain where you went wrong and how you intend to fix it or learn from it,” Owen says.