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You’ve spent the last few years at university. Your final assignment got rave reviews and now you’ve attended interviews for your first job.

Then all of a sudden, you’ve done it! You’ve secured your first proper job and are well on your way to becoming a ‘proper adult’.

That’s the process most young people coming straight out of university go through when looking for work. But it’s never quite as straightforward from there. In fact, The Telegraph estimates one in five employees either failed or had their probation period extended.

So, how do you get it right?

Before starting the job, you’ll be informed of your probationary period which normally lasts for an average period of three to six months. That period allows your employer to see if you’re the right fit for the role and company culture.

Meanwhile, it allows you to see how you fit in with the business and your colleagues.

This post explores the probationary period and offers some tips on how to make the most of it.

What is a probation period?

A majority of organisations will require their new employees to pass some sort of probationary period. It is a trail-like run that lasts anywhere from one to six months.

The main aim of this period is to give the employer and employee time to get to know each other and decide if the job matches their skills and personality.

It’s important to remember that while you’re on probation your contractual terms will probably be different from your colleagues on permanent contracts. This might affect your access to sick pay, holiday allowance, occupational health and other benefits.


Four tips for surviving your probation period

First impressions: These really do matter. Introduce yourself to everyone, be enthusiastic, positive and be prepared to listen. Always keep body language in mind because while you might choose not to say what’s on your mind, your body language may betray you.

Other things to remember: Dress smartly, avoid self-sabotaging behaviours, and remember good timekeeping is paramount.

Build a network: Joining a new team can be nerve-racking. It’s important to have a strong support network inside and outside your team. Not only does this help to increase your visibility around the company, but it also puts you in a position to share knowledge and collaborate with other departments.

Consider putting yourself forward for a mentorship programme as that’ll show you’re committed and willing to make an effort to progress within the organisation.

Other things to remember: Be friendly, connect with people, respect people and stay away from the dreaded office gossip.

Taking accountability: You’re new to the business so there’ll no doubt be processes you probably won’t get right the first time. A good manager will take the time to teach you the procedures and processes and isn’t likely to overreact if you don’t get it right the first couple of times. Take feedback and criticism in your stride without taking it personally.

Additionally, whenever you recognise you’ve made a mistake it’s important to accept it. No one wants to hire an employee that passes the buck or gets defensive if they’re accused of making a mistake. Instead, accept it and explain yourself and learn from it before moving forward.

Measuring your progress: Your company handbook should include information for staff on probation. The policy clarifies exactly what is expected of you during that period. Once you know what is expected of you, sit down with your manager and together set some goals for the rest of your probation period.

Other things to remember: Create SMART goals, be proactive, and record your development. 


Remember, your probation is not only dependent on your ability to perform tasks. It’s also an opportunity for both parties to see if they’re a good fit.

If you think the job isn’t for you then you can hand in your notice (duration depends on contract wording). And the same goes for the company if they feel you aren’t fitting in or meeting the standards expected of you. They can terminate your contract (with notice, of course).

Whatever the situation may be, always try to make the most of your experience at the company. Pick up new skills to add to your CV and connect with people as they may further your career down the line. 


Once you pass your probation period, don't take your foot off the floor! Read our blog on how to get more out of your working day to keep that momentum going. 

If you are still looking for your first job, give us a call on 028 90235 456 and one of specialist recruitment consultants will be more than happy to help guide you to that dream career.