Starting Off

5 tips for surviving probation

5 tips for surviving probation

Congratulations, you have got yourself a new gig.  Hopefully it is a role that you have been looking for.  A role that offers new experiences, greater autonomy and maybe even a larger pay packet.  In a perfect world, it is a 15-minute commute from your place and has any of the following as a part of the package: childcare, free gym membership, coffee machine, meditation classes, weekly at desk massage.

As the afterglow of your success begins to dim, it is normal that you will turn your mind to starting at the new job.  And this my friends, is where panic can set in.  Not only do you have to start a new job where you may not know anyone, but you also need to demonstrate your capability early on.  That is right folks, you need to survive probation.  Here are five tips for surviving probation.

Tip number 1 for surviving probation.

Turn up, on time and every time

I once had a staff member who had a sick day every week in their first four weeks of employment.  Only 1 day at a time and without a sick leave certificate.  Can I suggest that in your probation period you avoid taking sickies unless you have Ebola?  Even if you are feeling a little sketchy from last night’s kebab, or if you feel like you have a flu coming on, go into work.  Let your boss send you home.  Parents, think about a back-up plan for sick young kids, particularly in those first few months.  Harsh, maybe.  But the reality is that if you establish yourself as unreliable in those first few months, a workplace will expect it to be ongoing.  You are employed because your role is needed, not to be away on a periodic basis.  Small business, in particular cannot afford to have an employee that is regularly sick.

That means you need to manage your health.  You need to be extra cautious about sleep, what you eat and exercise in your first few months of employment.  If possible, make any health related (and other) appointments outside of working hours.  If you are genuinely too ill to get to work, then get your butt to a doctor.  Send your boss a medical certificate on the day that you call in sick that specifies what is wrong with you (if you feel OK with that).  I would rather that my boss had a medical certificate that said “gastro” on it than them thinking I was faking a stomach bug.  Even if you aren’t required to get a med cert, go the extra mile while you are in probation.

Also, turn up on time.  If you are expected to be at work at 9am, then that means at your desk.  Not making yourself breakfast, chatting with the fellow on reception or quickly checking facebook.  Treat everyone around you with respect, be on time for them.  Surviving probation means that you need to show up, on time, every time.

Tip number 2 for surviving probation

Show em what you can do, don’t be showy

There is a very real temptation when we start new jobs to kick a few goals.  This is particularly  the case if we have moved into a more senior role, or a position with expanded duties.  It’s quite natural to want to prove yourself.

There is a fine line though, between contributing and adding your talent and ideas to the mix and being a show off.  Surviving probation is all about being visible and demonstrating that you add value.  The second this moves into hogging the limelight or being a know it all, you move yourself into danger territory.  Be pro-active, not pushy.  Show that you can contribute in the team that exists already.

Early in your probation is not the time to start criticising work practices, or culture.  Nor is it the time for radical change (unless that is your mandate).  Give yourself some time to work out what is going on before you charge in like a bull in a china shop.

Tip number 3 for surviving probation

Work hard and help out

If there is any time during your work life in a job that you might want to work harder than normal, it is during probation.  I am not suggesting that you start doing 18 hour days, when there is little call for it.  I am suggesting that you establish a routine that involves you spending a little more time doing things that add value.  If you work in a physical job, go hard.  Take the extra sales call, accept an early morning meeting.  Show your new employer that you are prepared to go the extra mile to get things done.

Offer to assist others.  This is a great way to learn your job and get the lay of the land.  There is zero downside to being seen as a team player.  You might also make some great friends along the way.

Tip number 4 for surviving probation

Look and listen & keep your trap shut

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in probation is to bag your predecessor.  I have seen it happen so many times and it can be a career limiting move.  There are a multitude of reasons why your predecessor did what they did.  Chances are, in your first few months you won’t have all the context available to you to make judgement.  That being the case, can I suggest to shut up?  If you are good at what you do then everyone will be able to see the difference between your work output and your predecessors, if they made a dog’s breakfast out of things.  You don’t need to say anything; your work will speak for you.  Be wary of established relationships here, the work world is a small one.

Probation is a great time to keep your mouth shut and your ears and eyes open.  Take the time to get the vibe of the place and understand the culture.  If you manage people, it’s a great opportunity to observe how your staff react to a new boss.  You can guarantee one or two will try to push their agenda within a short period of time, and that includes asking for a pay rise.

Tip number 5 for surviving probation

Join the crowd

Surviving probation is about more than doing a good job.  Your boss and others will be evaluating you for fit.  You need to fit in.  If you follow tip number 4, you should get a good handle on the workspace.  Allow yourself to get to know others and vice versa.  If there is a work birthday or after work drinks, I would suggest going along, if only for a short time.

Demonstrating that you can work well with the team is just as important as doing good work.  If you fail to connect with colleagues, or create disharmony, that is not going to assist you in surviving probation.

There is a fine line with sharing your personal life with your new work colleagues.  Most folks will be interested in the high-level particulars; interests, partnered, children, pets.  You will be considered weird (at best) or unstable if you start sharing your medical history or your latest sexual conquest.  Best that religion, sex and politics stay out of it for a while.

Surviving probation

If you have done your research and chosen a well-suited role for yourself then half of your battle is won.  Follow the above tips and you should have no trouble surviving probation.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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