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Career Monday: What Every Employee Needs To Know About Initial Probation Periods

When starting a new job, you may find yourself facing an initial probation period. In these hard economic times where there is stiff competition for jobs, more and more companies are instituting probation periods for newly hired employees.

Read on to discover the ins and outs of these probation periods and how you can take advantage of them to make a positive impression with your new employer.

Assessing the Situation

1. Clarify the purpose. The most common reason employers use probationary periods is to ensure that they’re satisfied with their hiring decision before making the arrangement permanent.

• Conduct some background research. What you find out may help you figure out if it’s a longstanding policy or a reaction to recent personnel issues.

2. Understand the terms. Some positions are advertised as temporary or part time with the potential to become permanent or full time. In other cases, the expectation may exist that any candidate will become a regular employee upon the successful completion of the probation period. Compensation packages including pay and benefits may be lower initially or they may be unaffected.

3. Learn the success rate. Ask around to see how things worked out for others in your same situation. It’s a good sign if all your coworkers started out in the same fashion and are now happy to be continuing in their jobs.

• If there’s a history of employees being terminated when their initial contract expires, you may want to exercise more caution.

Positioning Yourself to Succeed

1. Agree on the evaluation schedule and methods. It’s essential that you and your supervisor have a meeting of the minds on when and how you’ll be evaluated. Reach a consensus on goals and performance measures.

2. Read your job description. Precise and comprehensive job descriptions are a valuable asset. Review the list of responsibilities, the qualities needed, and the relationships between your position and the rest of the organization.

3. Ask for the training you need. Let your supervisor know if you need certain training to do your job. This may be a combination of internal and external programs.

4. Meet regularly with your supervisor. Frequent communication will help everyone stay on track. Informal feedback and routine check-ins give you an opportunity to make valuable contributions and resolve any conflicts promptly.

5. Reach out to your coworkers. A wise employer will consult an employee’s peers to gather pertinent information. Make a good impression by always being helpful and demonstrating a friendly attitude.

6. Know your boundaries. It’s natural to feel like you’re being tested. You may decide that it’s worthwhile to work longer hours and take on additional tasks if it improves you chances. Keep in mind, however, what you can reasonably sustain over the long haul.

Other Considerations

1. Get everything in writing. A letter of agreement protects both the employer and the employee. Read it carefully before you sign.

2. Check your health insurance. Some employers decline to provide health insurance for probationary employees. You may need to purchase your own policy for yourself and your family during this interval.

3. Rewrite your resume. What you put on your resume could depend on your individual circumstances. If you wind up doing short-term contract work that fails to result in a permanent position, you may want to describe it accordingly.

4. Know the law. Employment terminology can be complex and have important legal implications. Check with your state labor department or a trusted professional if you have any questions. They can help explain such matters as the difference between contract workers and employees and your eligibility for severance and unemployment compensation.

Initial probation periods may pose an additional challenge when you’re starting a new job, but everything can still work out well. Analyze what you’re being offered to be sure it meets your needs. Then put in a great performance so you’ll ace your evaluation.

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