Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Offering a unique value proposition as an employee 6: best practices for new and recent hires 3

This is my sixth posting to a series on offering defining value as an employee, and on presenting yourself as the answer to problems faced while doing so (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 311-315 for Parts 1-5.)

I stated at the end of Part 5 that I will discuss probationary periods in this series installment, and that is my topic of focus here as I continue this overall discussion. And at the end of Part 5 I noted that it is possible to make a new job probationary period work for you and that there is a lot more to this stage in the tenure of working at a business than just increased vulnerability to being laid off.

Yes, in most legal jurisdictions and in most industries and for most businesses, and for most individual employees, the new hire probationary period is a time when an employee can be dismissed if their employer decides that they are not working out – and without having to give or even have any specific justifying reason for doing so. Even for heavily unionized or otherwise protected types of positions, those protections do not usually come into force until after a probationary period has been successfully completed.

As a new hire, you do start out in in a new job and from day one with certain legally mandated rights and protections. The specifics of that vary from country to country and both for what rights are legally protected for the worker and for what is legally disallowed for the hiring business.

• But this frequently includes employee protection against being required to work overtime without pay.
• This often explicitly includes employee protection against sexual harassment or discrimination on the basis of factors such as employee age, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation and sometimes even more. The list of what is covered here can be very short or it can be quite extensive. It is important as a new hire, and in general as someone working on and seeking to advance a career, what rights and protections you do have and even from day one and the beginning of any new hire probationary period. They can be substantial, and any right legally in place has probably proven to be both necessary and essential from the employment experience of others.
• If you do find yourself facing illegal discrimination and for work conditions while on the job, in how or why you are dismissed or both you will probably need professional legal help in developing and substantiating this claim, and certainly if this takes place during a probationary period. (See, for example, my series: Confronting Workplace Discrimination at HR and Personnel, postings 57-60 for Parts 1-4.)

But my focus here and for this posting is not going to be on legal rights and protections, and even where an employer can dismiss a new hire without stated cause or reason. It is about strategically creating value out of your probationary period for furthering and developing your own job experiences and your own overall career path.

As a general reference related to understanding and succeeding through the new hire probationary period, that I have found of real value in my own career and when mentoring others, I would recommend your reading:

• Watkins, M. (2003) The First 90 Days: critical success strategies for new leaders at all levels. Harvard Business School Press.

And my goal for this posting is to pick up upon and discuss one crucially important side to this probationary period that is usually overlooked, with the effect of throwing away one of your most fundamentally important sources of potential value as you start out on a new job.

• When you first start out on a job you are still a largely unknown quantity.
• The hiring manager who signed off on you being brought onboard, and in many cases other stakeholders as well, have learned something as to who you are, what you can do and how easy it would be for them to work with you.
• And your presentation and deportment, and your communications skills as shared with them during the hiring process were effective enough to prompt them to take the risk of bringing you in, and with the up-front costs of onboarding a new employee to your now new position and with the costs of any reduced productivity that they will have to absorb as you come up to speed for what you will be doing, to the point where you actually actively earn your pay. So these key contacts start out with a favorable opinion of you and a vested interest in your succeeding.
• That last point is important enough to merit repeating and further elaboration. This hiring manager, in most cases now your direct supervisor, and any other stakeholders who have signed off on hiring you start out with a vested interest in seeing you succeed, and both to vindicate their choice in selecting and hiring you as their best job candidate, and from their need to gain value to their business and to get resolved the tasks and issues that prompted them to hire at all, while limiting those upfront new hire costs.

And this is where you come in as that new hire. And this is where the opportunity that I write of here in this posting enters this narrative too.

• You start out as a largely unknown quantity, but one with at least a basis for developing a good reputation already in place. How you develop your actual hands-on work experience from there will set the stage for all that follows for you with this employer.
• This is where you will solidify or negate those initial positive first impressions. This is where you can begin setting yourself up as a good choice for managing high profile and high priority tasks and this is where you can position yourself on a track that can lead to advancement.
• Or this is where you can in effect typecast yourself into a narrow if acceptable niche that does not and cannot lead any further, except perhaps through the slower process of seniority-based advancement.

Positioning yourself for long-term success and advancement – or not begins here and from day one on the job.

• It begins with your attitude and approach and on how you are seen and how you begin building a name and reputation.
• It begins with how you work with others and on how you communicate with them, and on what early assignments you take on as you work towards achieving at least one defining early success.
• It depends on how you network with others who you directly work with and with people who depend on what you do, and with people who you have to successfully share key-resource access with.
• Long term success can begin with short term and early bridge building successes, and in successfully proactively reaching out to more mutually effectively work with others who can become your support and advocacy base, and for way beyond the scope of your initial probationary period and its requirements and for well after it is completed and behind you.

The distinction that I am setting up here is crucial. Simply passing the test of the new hire probationary period, means doing your job well enough to be kept on. Really succeeding in it and building a basis for a strong future with that business from it means building a reputation for being the employee who others can count on and who they want to work with as you prove that.

I have written about early successes and goals and stretch goals and they are a part of this. See, for example Part 5 of this series, though I could also cite postings from my series Starting a New Job, Building a New Foundation too (see my first Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development directory page, postings 73-88 and particularly its Part 5.) But if you focus on specific short term goals alone you are only focusing on the immediate tasks at hand and not on your overall job performance, let alone on your overall career development plans. Understanding and managing your new hire probationary period is about approaching and cultivating it as a strategic opportunity through which you can build an intentionally planned platform for your further success.

I am going to continue this discussion with what comes next after the end of the probationary period, when you are no longer in the new hire spotlight and are in danger of starting to slip into a rut. And in anticipation of that, I am going to discuss the issues of staying connected and involved with your growing network without coming across as a distraction to the people you network with. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 and at my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.

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