How to survive the tech industry’s probation period
Congratulations on getting that position you sought so long and hard for. But your journey isn’t over yet. Now that you have successfully passed your technical interview and hopefully negotiated for your salary before joining, you are now stuck in a little something called probation.
Depending on your company, probation can mean many different things, but generally, you won’t receive time off or certain benefits others do. And tho you have proved yourself during the interview, the probation period is meant to judge your abilities and company fit. This typically spans 30–90 days in tech companies, but this can even be as long as 6 months.
1. Understanding Goals
I’m a huge lists person, and I can’t tell you this enough, but it’s important to write down your goals! The best way to do this is just to ask your supervisor(s) what they are looking for by the end of your probation. By doing so you can get a clear understanding of what you have to do to pass and how you can break these goals down into smaller parts. The last thing I would say is to try your best not to have anything scheduled during this time, I’ve seen some people join full-time positions in anticipation of starting school full time. Some people can do it, but to me full-time school and full-time work are impossible. So know your limits and recognize what you signed up for.
2. Keep it, Hush Hush
Remember that you are the new guy/gal in town. At least, in the beginning, a lot of eyes will be on you whether you think so or not. So it’s important to remain a little reserved in the beginning. Time and time again a new person will come along and talk as if they know it all. It’s better to ask questions than assume you have all the answers. If your first impression is arrogance, it can hurt your credibility in the future when you are eventually assigned tasks.
But it’s not just the opinions of others you should be worried about, but finding people you can trust within your work environment. In a perfect world, we can all get along and work together great, but you can’t trust everyone as some people are trying to hurt your success more than help.
3. Adapt to your work environment
Now it’s time to do a little bit of people-watching. Part of being a good company fit is being able to fit into your new environment as if it’s your own. Learn where the exits are, bathroom, paper supplies, server room, or whatever you need to comfortably work day to day. If Co-workers often take more breaks, be sure you are also taking advantage of this. If there is a lot of micro-management, make sure you are on top of keeping busy and your training.
4. Learn the Technologies and Best practices
Focus hard on your training. More often than not, when you join a new tech company you will have to learn technologies and tools that you’ve never used before. I encourage you to spend some extra time outside of work to hone in on the skills needed for your job so that you can have the advantage and practice needed to face your up-and-coming tasks. Just please remember that it’s okay to struggle and that everyone starts somewhere AND DON’T FORGET DOCUMENTATION! So just because you are having a hard time understanding something, don’t feel like you don't belong. It can be easy to let this discourage you, but you are beyond qualified for the tasks at hand. It’s why they hired you!
5. Bridge Communication with you and your team
Whether they are good or bad people at the end of the day this is a professional environment and things must be completed in a respectful manner. You can always learn more from those around you, so be sure to meet all of your team members and do your part to bridge the gap between you being a stranger, and being their dependable teammate. Done right, you should not feel afraid to ask for help from anyone in your team, or express ideas about a solution.
6. Hands-on Shadowing
If available, look for opportunities from your co-workers to shadow their day-to-day tasks, and try to be as hands-on as possible. You almost want to take over their computer completely and have them watch you as you perform tasks to ensure that you are making the best possible decisions. This will help you a lot with what you’ll eventually have to do on your own and strengthen your confidence in your ability to take on your first project.
7. Studying Legacy Code
Learning from the past is very important, from reading documentation to just looking through the files and environment of a project. But before you look through 100+ documents, I suggest that you look at legacy code more like an API or Library. Over time you will be expected to have a high-level understanding of larger parts of the program — if not all — however, we can’t remember everything, and it’s not worth studying every tiny line of code when it already works. Simply using and learning what you need will save you time and effort, leading to a more successful project.
You could go the extra mile and work endlessly to ensure that you will still have a job once probation has ended, however, you will likely burn yourself out and not be compensated. Just don’t overwork yourself, the best way to prevent this is to often check in with your supervisor(s) to see if you are on pace with their expectations. So long as you are on pace, there’s no need to overwork yourself. As someone who personally made that mistake, trust me, it’s not worth it and can lead to bosses taking advantage of you knowing that you will do all the work for them.
And do not stress too much about the possibility of getting fired at the end of your probation. Typically it’s a lot harder for a company to just let someone go once they are hired. So, so long as you are keeping pace with what your supervisors are asking you, and gauging how hard (or weak) everyone else is working too, you should be able to Survive Probation! This means you’ll have a good chance to ask for a reevaluation once it’s said and done. So if you didn’t negotiate your salary the first time around now is your chance to at least get a little more for completing your training and proving your abilities and compatibility with the company.
Hope this serves you well, and I’ll see you next time. This is Ant, signing out.