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How to have a great probation period

Congratulations on your new role!! You’ve no doubt worked hard to get that job offer and it’s at this point, just before you start, that you feel a mixture of excitement and nerves. The tips here will hopefully help you feel more excited than nervous. Having a plan for your probation period helps you feel like you’re in a state of relaxed control. It’s beneficial to view your transition into a new company as an opportunity for you to proactively drive and influence the process. In the past when I’ve been in this position I’ve felt like I have little influence over the outcome of the probation period, that the outcome was purely determined by my employer’s view of my performance.  However, It’s a two-way street - just as they’re assessing how well you fit into the role, you are assessing whether this is a good fit for you too!

The objective

A successful probation period is one where you and your new employer are very confident that you are both a good fit. Consider what the success criteria in your new role are for you - what you need to know to confirm that you and the role are a good fit for each other. Take the time over the first couple of weeks to gain clarity on what your new employer’s expectations are of you. In alignment with your employer’s expectations of you, think about what you need to learn, and create a small plan on how you will put yourself in the position where you can learn those things. Spend some time in the first couple of weeks observing how things work at the new company, to understand where potential improvements can be made.

Where to start?

Everyone wants to make a good impression in their new job. In order to get up to speed quickly with what’s going on, listen far more you talk. Jumping in too fast with solutions that have worked elsewhere may not fit and not be received well - rather, understand how things currently work in this new place and then figure out how to translate your experience into something which works in this new context. What are the best documents for you to read right now? It can be overwhelming to absorb context at speed in a new role - narrow your focus and ask what you should be reading first, and who you should be speaking to first. Ask your line manager what they need from you and by when so you’re clear on what they’re expecting of you.

It’s very important to set healthy boundaries and expectations with people from the start. Setting the right tone for relationships from those first interactions helps pave the way for healthy working relationships based on mutual respect and trust. Build up relationships in one-on-ones - this shows your new colleagues that you are invested in your working relationships with them from the beginning. Bias for unblocking yourself before asking questions - it shows you’ve tried to find the right answer before reaching out. Find out people’s preferences for when and how you ask them questions. Ask them what support they need from you. Reach out to the people in your team and external influencers for one-on-ones - building a network will help you feel connected and supported, and enable you to start building your reputation.

Take a look around at how things are working at the moment, and take the time to understand why things are done a particular way. Look for quick wins - is there missing documentation? Are you good at identifying what tools would automate tasks for the team? Does the team need initiatives organised which they don’t have time for? Is there a different approach to processes which would serve the team better?

You want to feel good in your new role as soon as possible and one way to do this is to build a foundation of wins so you start to gain momentum with delivering in your role; this will help you start to build confidence. What are your strengths and how can you leverage them in your new role? Part of building your identity and your reputation means identifying your strengths, things others don’t do, which will mean your team value you all the more!

Transitioning into a new role can be quite anxiety inducing. At times you may be wondering how people are perceiving what you’re doing and how you are doing it. Closing the gap between what you think people are thinking of you and what they’re actually thinking will reduce the anxiety. Ask for feedback continuously from peers, managers and direct reports, so your perception of your performance is in alignment with theirs. This will helps you feel more in control of your probation period. Asking for feedback builds the trust you have with each person, and also gives you both the opportunity to clarify expectations of your role.

I wish you the best of luck with your new role and with having a successful probation period! I hope the tips here help :)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sam Jones

Engineering Manager at Monzo

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