How to pass your probation with flying colours

Most of us at some time or another will have been through a probation process when we start a new job. A lot of companies have this in place (generally from three to six months, depending on the contract). In fact, you might not even have a probation period if you’re on a fixed-term rolling contract. You want to make sure you can pass your probation period without any hassle, because once you’re out of it, you can usually get loads of employee benefits!

To unlock these benefits with a company, your manager needs to agree with HR that you’ve passed your probation and therefore qualify for these benefits. They usually include healthcare, a longer notice period, company discounts and/or pension schemes.


The obvious tips for passing your probation

Some of these do sounds rather obvious, but they’re more important to get right than you think. The longer we’re in our jobs, the more complacent we become and it’s easy to let things slip from time to time. Firstly, being punctual at all times is vital. This isn’t just to work in the mornings, it’s also to meetings and not being the first person to get up and go home in the evening! It’s all part of conducting yourself in a professional manner, which is another huge one for passing. You need to be able to get on well with colleagues in your team. Sometimes this might not happen, and you can’t force it – but you can keep your thoughts to yourself when you’re more tempted to say something inappropriate!

Targets are a very important measuring point for determining the completion of your probation. You’ll be given some set targets within your first week at the new job. Make sure you try your absolute best to pass these targets. They should be fairly easy to pass, as the purpose of them is to slowly but efficiently ease you into your new role. These targets will soon become your day to day tasks – but don’t take this for granted. Pass those targets!

If you have some extra time, why not volunteer for extra projects and tasks? It might open some new doors for you further down the line, and it’s also a great way to meet new colleagues and get to know the company better. It’s also part of my next tip, which is to be as sociable as possible. This gives you extra points with your colleagues and will help you get to know them better, therefore strengthening communication too.

Make sure you co-operate with your manager as much as possible. If they ask you to do a job you’re not sure of, ask as many questions as you need. Don’t feel as if you can’t do a job because you don’t know enough yet – use the advantage of being the new employee and be inquisitive. You may even know some ways the tasks can be improved upon and this is why your manager is asking you to do them. Sometimes it’s just to give you practise – or it could genuinely be something that nobody else likes to do… in which case it’s the element of being the new employee that’s a bit of a disadvantage.

Speaking of asking questions, seek out a possible mentor for advice on your role, as well as the company itself. Go to a lunch or two with this person to find out more. If you like the idea of mentoring to get ahead in your career, read my article here.

Do some research. How can your role be developed in the future? What did your predecessor go on to do in their career (if applicable. You could be the first person in your role!) Have a look at what competing companies do and look at their vacancies for ideas. Not to move jobs of course – but to see what the job descriptions are for similar things in your role. Are there additional elements your role could include that your manager hasn’t quite thought of? When you have your probation meeting with your manager, it’s really useful to be armed with ideas relating to your role. Your manager will want to hear from your point of view – so you’d better have something to say.

What if my probation gets extended?

Sometimes, your manager may decide that your probation period needs to be extended for a little longer. This could be for a multitude of reasons, so don’t panic. These reasons include:

  • The company has changed its probation procedure
  • There’s a new element to your job that your manager wants to ‘test out’ while you’re still new to the game
  • You need more time to reach targets
  • You or your manager has had an extended amount of time off (i.e. extenuating circumstances)

The important thing here is to make sure both you and your manager know why your probation is being extended. Is it because you’re always late and need to clean up your act? If it’s an attitude issue, you need to make it a big priority to get it addressed. Sometimes it’ll be something that’s entirely out of your control, and as long as you and your manager are on the same page, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

Gaining knowledge is important

As previously highlighted, the knowledge you attain during your probation period is really important. The more knowledge you have, the easier it’ll be to pass your probation period as the perfect employee. If you have no knowledge of your role in the company or the company as a whole during your probation meeting, it doesn’t make you look particularly good.

You may have a lot of compulsory training during your first few months at a company. These training lessons can be really significant to passing your probation (sometimes you cannot pass until you have been to these sessions). They can be a really good way of networking and meeting other new employees, who may become vital contacts further down the line.

If you can get some of your own training during your probation period then that’s really good, but it isn’t likely to happen as a lot of training takes time to book in advance and you may have bigger priorities on at the moment.

Remind yourself of expectations

Look over the notes you got in your first week outlining the specifications of your role. Have you covered all of the bases and can you show examples of this when you have your probation meeting? Similarly if you have gone above and beyond the expectations of your role make sure you’ve made notes of where you have done this so you can bring it up in your probation meeting.

Things to remember

You are an employee of the company even if you haven’t passed your probation yet. Also, some people don’t see their probation period as anything particularly important. Once you’ve been through five of six jobs each with their own probation terms then you can take it for granted. You need to take it seriously because if you don’t pass it, it won’t always get extended for you. A lot of companies will simply terminate your employment right there on the spot. The good news is that it usually takes quite a lot to fail your probation, and usually you’ll get warned about certain things before your meeting.

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