Become visible: What really matters during the probationary period

The main thing is not to make mistakes, not to embarrass yourself professionally: Many people approach the probationary period with this approach.

Become visible: What really matters during the probationary period

The main thing is not to make mistakes, not to embarrass yourself professionally: Many people approach the probationary period with this approach. If you want to convince the employer of yourself, you should also bet on other cards.

Integrate well into the team, network, don't ask too many questions, but not too few either - and at the same time demonstrate your own skills: Very few employees approach the probationary period with deep relaxation.

After all, there is usually no protection against dismissal in the first six months of the employment relationship. Doing everything perfectly at the same time - hardly anyone will be able to do that. So what really matters in the first few months on the job?

During the probationary period, the recruiting phase is being extended, says Christine Kentzler from the personnel and management consultancy Kienbaum. Instead of feeling like you've reached your goal, you should realize that as a newcomer you're being watched.

"It's like a live assessment center," says the new placement consultant. Now it's a matter of showing and implementing in day-to-day business what you promised as an applicant in the selection process.

"I shouldn't rely on my employer handing me everything on a silver platter, taking me by the hand in an exemplary manner and getting me started," says Kentzler. New employees are often thrown in at the deep end. It shows who can handle it well, is proactive and takes responsibility.

And that is exactly what is sometimes even more important than the technical expertise. It is therefore advisable to first make it clear to yourself: "What is the goal of this position for which I am now standing here?"

This is linked to the question: "What are the expectations? Both expressed and implicit expectations - for example of the manager, the team, the customers, the team leader," says Kentzler.

If you want to prove yourself, you should read the corporate culture carefully. "It's about unwritten laws," says Julia Siems, Head of People Development at Rundstedt's careers consultancy. Anyone who simply ignores the rules, which are not visible at first glance, can quickly offend.

The corporate culture also provides indications of what newcomers can do particularly well. "If the culture in the company is very competitive, there may well be a need for distinctive self-marketing," says Siems. Elsewhere, professional competence is what counts most.

Anyone who has a good picture of the goals and expectations in the company can devote themselves to the next step. According to Christine Kentzler, the task now is to draw up a "roadmap" for the next six months: What could an action plan look like? What are important milestones?

It is smart to look for projects at the beginning where you can achieve something visible in a short time with comparatively little effort. "Quick wins" are important, especially in the early days, to show that you have arrived in your role.

Julia Siems also advises not concentrating on just "absorbing information" for too long. In the first 30 days in a new job you naturally get a lot of input. After that, however, a phase begins in which "one should get into operational action". And from about day 60 of the probationary period, it is time for the first results, as far as the task or role profile allows.

One of the more informal tasks during the probationary period is to build up a network in the company. Newcomers are well advised to get an overview of who has which role in the company, who they really need to know and who, for example, are the opinion leaders in the team or department.

The difficulty here: finding the right balance. On the one hand you don't want to remain invisible, on the other hand you don't want to appear too intrusive. Christine Kentzler reassures: "Personally, I think most people have a very good instinct." She sees more often that people do too little than too much.

Nevertheless, Julia Siems recommends "respectful use of the resources of others." So: Always first consider whether information is not easily accessible anyway - before asking colleagues for it. If you take notes, you don't have to keep asking about the same aspects over and over again.

According to Kentzler, however, it is also legitimate to check within the company whether one is putting in too much or too little. Newcomers can look for a sponsor or a mentor if they are not assigned someone to support them anyway. You can also ask this person informal questions.

The consultant recommends asking the manager or the team members specifically how often feedback meetings are desired: "So make a clear agreement: In what cycle should we exchange ideas?"

But that's not all: "I have to reflect on the feedback I get," says Siems. It is therefore helpful to be given concrete examples. And sometimes - if, for example, there is rather little feedback - you have to be able to endure uncertainty at times.

Because it is much more difficult to make friends when working from home, Kentzler advises working on site whenever possible during the probationary period. It is important to use every opportunity to "somehow get into a rat" and to basically increase the communication frequency.

Even if many aspects sound plausible - from Kentzler's point of view one thing is decisive: "The moment you suddenly get knee-deep in operational matters - which can happen very quickly - you mustn't lose sight of your goals."

It is therefore helpful to track your own resolutions. Here, too, one should not only rely on one's own assessment, but also obtain the opinions of others. "Self-image and external image very often diverge." After two months at the latest, it is time to ask the right sources - such as the manager and the team - to see whether everything is developing in the right direction.

Last but not least, the probationary period is also an opportunity for employees to check again whether they agree with the company values ​​- and whether their working style suits the employer.

In the best-case scenario, this is already clear during the application process. "But to say to yourself: Hey, the trial period is also there for me to see if I really fit in - that can be good for your inner attitude and self-confidence."

(This article was first published on Monday, May 09, 2022.)


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