Want To Get Past Probation At Work?


Hooray! You’ve landed yourself a new job! If you were unemployed, all that stress of looking for work is behind you now. If you left one job for this one, you’ve got a lot to look forward to, presumably this opportunity has more for you than where you worked last. Congratulations either way!

Your goal has actually shifted in any event, from finding a job to maintaining this job. So how long is your probationary period? 3 months is a good guess, but it might be longer. Oh, and if it’s a contract job, you’ll be hoping perhaps to perform so well they’ll keep you on. The same is true for many of you out there who land yourself a seasonal job for the holiday season approaching. Unless of course you’re the new Mall Santa; your job has a definite end date just before Christmas day!

Here then are some things to do to maintain that new job. Again, congratulations!

  1. Show up when you’re scheduled. It sounds completely obvious I know, but I’m continually surprised by the number of people who upon taking a job, think it is well within their rights to show up late or not at all. When your name is on the schedule, you’re being counted on to be at work. You might have good reasons to be absent or running late, but just the same, your new employer has a business to run and needs employees there to do the work.
  2. Get your childcare in place now. This isn’t exclusive to single parents. Get childcare arranged now – before you start a job – and work on getting a back up on call if your primary source of childcare isn’t available. In other words, a private sitter won’t watch your child if they are ill, or on vacation, have an accident; maybe even if they have medical appointments of their own one day – and they will. Don’t plan on figuring this out after you accept a job; you’ll be too busy.
  3. Dress the part. You want to last don’t you? Okay then, fit in. Now I know that individualism counts, that it’s your right to express yourself as you see fit, and yes, if people don’t accept you for who you are then that’s their problem. Sure, this all sounds noble and under many circumstances I’d agree entirely. It’s also just a tad self-serving too. If the job calls for safety equipment to be worn, wear it as it’s designed, not how you think looks most fashionable. If you interact with the public, keep in mind it’s not just your right to express yourself that’s on display, so is the reputation of the employer who hired you. Keeping up that desired image is expected of you.
  4. Be positive. Be friendly and accentuate the positive. People generally like being around people who are optimistic, personable and yes the odd smile goes a long way. Try a little experiment today – smile and see how many people smile automatically back at you. It’s a reflex motion!
  5. Stay until your shift is over. Cutting out early gets noticed. If you expect to get paid right up until your shift ends, you are expected to work until your shift ends. When you’re off at 5 p.m., that doesn’t mean you start putting on your coat and heading out the door 10 minutes early so you get to your car at 5 p.m.
  6. Pitch In. When appropriate, lend a hand to others. By appropriate, I mean make sure your own job gets completed and helping others doesn’t distract you from doing what’s expected of you. Where possible, a simple, “Hey can I help?” might win you some goodwill, get you noticed and signal to others that you’re a team player.
  7. Be careful who you listen to. At the start of your job, you haven’t any idea who the gossips are, the idle workers, the ones Management has targeted as in line to be let go. Be wary of comments, advice or conversations that just feel wrong, paint the employer in a bad light, or taint anyone badly.
  8. Focus on the work. Make sure the job you were hired to do is actually your focus. While you want to get along, you’re under the microscope more than the other long-standing employees. You’re being evaluated and if you can’t hit targets, seem to be standing around more than working etc., they’ll cut you loose and hire someone else.
  9. Ask for feedback. If you’ve got a 3 month probation period, ask how you’re doing long before you get surprised with being released. It’s too late to say, “What? Why?” You should have been told any concerns so you could improve in any areas they identified as needing attention, but it’s still your responsibility to find out how you’re performing. Ask your Supervisor this one, not a co-worker.
  10. Show some enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is my mantra; it’s the number one quality employer’s want in their employees. It’s no longer enough just to, ‘do the job for a pay cheque’. Employers look for workers with some passion, some investment in what they are doing; people who understand WHY they do what they do and HOW what they do contributes to the overall success of the organization.

I’m happy for you! Yeah! Follow the above and I you’ll hopefully keep your job long past your probationary period. Getting hired and staying employed are two different skills; don’t start coasting now.

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Change Is Coming. Are you Ready?


When it comes to change, one could argue there’s three camps of people; those who embrace it and seek it out, those who can roll with it when it arises, and those who resist it. If you’re not creating change, you will nonetheless experience it; then it’s going to be how you react to change that will demonstrate whether it’s a positive experience for you or not.

In the workplace, change can come in many forms. Your company might have to bring in changes to keep up their place in the industry; to stay competitive, to realize their expected profit margins. Resisting change could close a business, resulting in layoffs for all the employees, some of which may have wanted changes themselves, but who could not in their positions, bring about the necessary changes required to stay viable.

Most changes are brought about with a positive result in mind by those who initiate change. The management of an organization might want their workforce to undergo retraining of their employees to keep them current with customer expectations, to get ahead of trends and be in on the cutting edge of technology. Sometimes change means tweaking current practices while other times change might mean a complete review of priorities,  values, direction and modernization of what’s been the norm.

The thing about change is that most people don’t mind change as long as they feel they’ll be able to manage the process between what they know and do in the present and what they’ll be expected to know and do in the future when the change has been implemented. While some see this period of flux as stimulating and invigorating – a real workout for the little grey brain cells, others resist change.

It would be a shame to make the mistake of labeling those who resist change as dead weight or negative. As each one of us is a sum of our past and present experiences, the same is true for those who are reluctant or dead set against change. So if, ‘organizational change’ is brought up at some team gathering, it could trigger panic and alarm for someone who was let go in a past job when a company shuffled their line up and promoted positive change leading up to what was essentially a dismissal. Until the change has come and gone, that single person has every right to feel threatened and suspicious. Their past negative experience might be playing out in their consciousness for month’s as change is mulled over, talked about openly, piloted and then fully implemented. How stressful it must feel to come into work each day wondering if this is the day you’re to lose your job for a second time and be powerless to do anything about it when the decision-making is out of your control!

Now I suppose one way to better handle change is to prepare yourself as best you can when things are stable and change isn’t whispered about on the work floor. The question really becomes then, how do you prepare for change when you don’t know what direction that change might take? Excellent question!

The answer of course is that you can’t guarantee that your actions will safeguard you for all possible changes to come, but you can improve your odds of surviving and even thriving when change inevitably comes – and it will. This is best done by increasing your current value to the employer. When you were hired, your skills, education and experience were obviously enough to land you a job. Great. However, would those same three things get you the same job today? What have you done to increase your knowledge? What courses have you invested in? (And by this I mean what have you invested YOURSELF in?) Have you sought out any cross-training to learn other jobs?

As upsetting as it is for some people to contemplate, imagine you knew you were going to have to look for a job in 3 months time. You’ll need to have an updated resume for starters. Have you kept your résumé updated with courses and on-the-job training over the years? Do you even know where that dreaded resume is at the moment? You might not feel motivated to hunt for it now, but if you do, ask yourself if you’d be able to compete with more recently trained competition for similar jobs. Sure you’ve got them with your year’s of hands-on experience, but will their education and experience with technology and emerging practices make them more attractive to an employer? If you haven’t kept up with training because you didn’t see the point, you might really regret so later.

Yet, here you are – you’re now employed, feeling secure and you like the routine of your job; you feel competent and safe. You my friend have the benefit of security for the time being, and you just might want to think about doing something now so that when the whispers of change reach your ear, you can exhale and know you’ve prepared as best you can for whatever is about to come.

Of course I’m only talking here of BIG changes. Little changes happen all the time and some will affect you more than others. Getting a new pair of work boots might take some breaking into; your office chair might be upgraded. You let the old ones go.

How do you feel about change?

Want To Keep Your Job?


There are those folks who find getting a job relatively easy. While this may seem incredible and grossly unfair to the highly motivated people who have become extremely frustrated with prolonged job searches, you and I probably know someone for whom this is true. Their problem isn’t getting work, but rather, keeping the jobs they get.

It’s one thing for an employer to release an employee when its totally beyond the control of the employee, but far too often it’s actually the behaviour of the employee that brings about their departure from the company they worked with. When this is repeated a second or third time and a pattern of behaviour results in parting ways often, it should be a clear sign that’s it not them; it’s you.

Sorry if you didn’t want to hear that. Then again, I suspect people who lose their employment already know they’re responsible for their frequent unemployment through job losses.

So if you find it helpful, or perhaps if you’re relatively young and new to the world of work, here are some things to avoid and keep the jobs you get.

  1. Be on time. Show up when you’re scheduled and expected. If you start at 9:00a.m., don’t walk in the door at 9:05a.m., look at all the faces turned your way and say, “What?” Being late every so often might happen – on the day you drop your car off for service . However, being late often is a sure way to alienate yourself from other employees and force your boss to do something about it – namely let you go.
  2. Work when you’re at work. If you get in the habit of arriving at work only to then go make a coffee sit and chit-chat with your co-workers, visit the restroom and then eventually get to work 25 minutes after your start time, don’t think it goes unnoticed and therefore approved. Arrive, get settled and get to work. This is what you’re getting paid to do, and if you don’t do the work, they’ll find someone eager to replace you.
  3. Get help with your addiction. Seriously, it is a problem and if you can’t see it, others can. You’re probably not as good at covering it up as you believe you are, and trying to master it alone isn’t what’s going to work. Whether it’s the drinking 3 or 4 nights a week that has you occasionally coming into work hung over or the drastic change in your mood swings due to withdrawal, it’s noticeable and it’s going to cost you eventually. It may be easier – much easier in fact – to simply let you and your problem go and not invest a lot of time and energy supporting you and your problem. If you’re holding a job down at the moment, now’s the time to get support with your addiction.
  4. Don’t steal. Call it what it is; it’s not borrowing, or taking something because you’re owed. The thing about stealing is people start noticing when things go missing. While you might honestly find you’ve nicked a pen when you’re halfway home, you can hardly say the same thing about the cash in your pocket, the printer paper you’ve stashed in the trunk at noon, or the toilet paper rolls you’ve got on the passenger seat beside you. Toilet paper oddly enough is the number one thing employees steal. I know; bizarre!
  5. Follow procedures. Sure, sure, sure there’s a lot to be said for being productively disruptive. I’m this way myself if I’m honest – and I am. However, I’m smart enough to know that rules are put in place for good reasons. If you want to question a policy or procedure go ahead and do it respectfully. Maybe even ask to pilot a change. However, if you want to last, take heed to following those established rules.
  6. Join the herd. Ever notice in the wilds that the prey always target the animal they can separate from the rest? When threatened, animals are smart enough to group themselves together and fend off trouble. Get along with others you work with. No you don’t need to befriend them outside the workplace, but do engage in friendly conversation and be helpful on the job site. You may actually need these co-workers down the road and hey, they might need you.
  7. Respect the boss. Should you respect the boss, the place the boss holds or both? If you find you don’t respect the person, at least respect their place as your supervisor. While you might not like it, failing to respect both the person and the position they are in could land you in a heap of trouble. Running to their boss and complaining might make you feel better, but what’s more likely to happen is the Manager sides with the boss and you’re the easier of the two to remove. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll come to respect the person eventually anyhow.
  8. Watch your words. The place you work isn’t likely a street corner, so be smart enough to know how you talk in these two places may be very different. Keep foul language, slang and while we’re at it keep gossip out of the workplace. It’s not productive, hurts people and if it’s harassing, you might be the cancer that needs removing. Zip it.

There you go. 8 items to be aware of if you want to keep your job once you got it. Care to add to the list?

 

New Job? Here’s To Passing Probation


When you’ve been unemployed, passing the interview and receiving a job offer is a rewarding experience. Whether it’s a fist pump, a call to you mom, dinner out with the spouse/partner, or celebrating with a drink raised to you by friends, you’re bound to be excited.

You should feel good of course, and sharing this moment of triumph with the people closest to you who know what it’s taken to get to this point makes sense. These people are happy for you but also relieved themselves of the stress your past unemployment placed on them.

You may be so grateful for this latest opportunity that you plan on never being out of work again; never wanting to feel the shock of being fired, the shame of being walked out of the building and the embarrassment of coming home early and explaining why you’re there. Well good for you. However, before you throw out your resumes and job search materials, thinking you’ll never need them again, make a really good decision and that’s to hang on to it all. Store it safely away where it’s near at hand if and when you need it.

In almost every job you’re facing a period of probation; that period of time when you or the employer can walk away from the relationship with no explanation required. That sounds like a good thing unless of course you want to stay and the employer says, “It’s just not working out here.” While that sounds like it could be something you hear early in a personal relationship, the employer usually goes on to say one more thing that separates them from the dating scenario; “It’s definitely you not us.”

If you want to pass probation, (let’s assume this is a given shall we?), here’s a few pointers:

1. Show Up. You’re now accountable for your time and even if you have valid excuses for running late or being absent, the company still has work to be performed and customers to serve. Some people who have been out of work for an extended period find it difficult to get the body and mind back into a committed routine; don’t be one of them!

2. Re-think Social Media. Now that the company has brought you into the family, your actions and behaviours are going to reflect positively or negatively on not only you but also their reputation. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your boss or co-workers to see or read. A rant on the internet about your idiotic boss will likely find its way to their attention.

3. Be Reliable. Consider the fellow who tells all his co-workers about the wild times he has getting loaded every weekend and then calls in regularly on Mondays with various reasons for his absence. This is a sure way to lose your job fast. Remember that probation is presumably you on your best behaviour. If this is you at your best, what will you be like after probation? You might not get the opportunity to show them how bad you can really get.

4. Be Friendly. Now whether you’re outgoing, shy, timid or an introvert, everyone can go about their day being courteous and friendly. You don’t need to meet workers after the job for drinks, hang out with those having personalities which overwhelm you or smile all day long if that’s unnatural for you; but do be friendly. It’s not just your qualifications and skills being evaluated, it’s the chemistry you’re making with those around you and how everyone performs with you in the workplace.

5. Take Direction.  You’re not the boss; well, unless of course you are the boss. Listen. There is likely a reason why things are done the way they are. If you’re asked for your suggestions that’s fine but pay close attention to how your ideas are received. Learn quickly to hold off on your brilliant suggestions and watch your words as you suggest the things you do. A sure-fire way to find yourself unemployed is to say on your 5th day, “Who’s the idiot who came up with this policy?”

6. Be Helpful. You just might find that while your own job takes top priority; and it should, there may be moments here and there to be helpful to others in completing theirs. Small things like picking up papers someone has dropped, holding the door for colleagues no matter their gender and learning as quickly as you can so your trainer can get back to doing their own job full-time.

7. Listen. You’re the newbie and your knowledge of the organization, their practices, policies, organizational structure, and workplace dynamics is the worst not the best in the organization. Listen with a goal of reducing the number of times someone needs to repeat themselves during your training.

8. Dress The Part. You may be tempted to thrown on your ACDC t-shirt and cords after the first few days on the job because you noted one other employee standing in line in the cafeteria was wearing something similar. Don’t do it! Dress with care and attention each day. You’re not trying to show up your co-workers but rather demonstrate that you understand the dress code and respect both it and those around you with whom you interact. If you’re not sure, ask.

There are lots of things you can do to hasten your termination or pass probation with flying colours. What would you add to the list?

Authenticity, Perception And Reputation


When the person you are is the person people think you are.

We hear a lot today about reputations, self-branding, marketing etc. So many people, (and I’m one of them), encourage the idea of self-branding; where you think consciously about who you are and the image you want to project to those you come into contact with.

And companies? Companies are always marketing themselves and their products and services, striving to ensure that the quality and consistency of those messages with each interaction backs up and reinforces the identity of the company behind them. Every time the customer has a good experience the reputation grows and solidifies; and the reverse is equally true if the experience is poor, the reputation erodes and crumbles.

The same is true when people interact with you and then compare this interaction with what they previously knew or thought of you. With this latest experience, those we interact with judge whether what they’ve experience runs counter to their expectations or perhaps reinforced what they expected; i.e. authenticity.

What you should be striving to achieve is a consistent brand where people can be assured that the experience they have with you in the future can be reasonably predictable. When this is the case, people understand and rely on this identity; they not only come to expect that same consistent experience themselves, but they pass on your name and reputation with it to their friends and contacts.

Here’s the thing to remember; if someone has a good experience with you, they leave satisfied because their expectations were met and whatever they anticipated was realized. If on the other hand, their expectations of you fell short, you expose yourself to two liabilities; they themselves may not give you a second chance to deliver, and your reputation as unreliable and inconsistent may be spread to others.

If and when your reputation takes a hit, you have two choices: a) do nothing about it, b) work hard to restore that reputation. If you look around you, you’ll see examples of people and businesses that don’t do much of anything when it comes to damage control. They dismiss the person who didn’t have a good experience as an annoyance, and concentrate on the next customer; the next sale.

Other companies do stop and address the dissatisfied customer or client. They go out of their way to ask, “What can we do to make it up to you?” This is their attempt at really asking, “What can we do to restore our good reputation because you matter to us.”

Like a business, you and I – we have our reputations to build and take responsibility for. When you think of your status in your workplace and look at things objectively, what is your reputation? Are you dependable, creative, sensitive, kind, overbearing, manipulative, approachable, hard-nosed, hard-working, fun? Are you the Jokester, the Leader, the Steamroller or the Fountain of Inspiration?

Depending on how you want to be perceived and how you actually are perceived, you have likewise two choices, a) work to keep your current branding or b) work harder to change how you are perceived so that how you are perceived matches the way you wish to be perceived.

Look, suppose you notice someone going about their work in a different way; taking things a little more seriously, acting responsibly, watching their language a little closer. You don’t have to be an expert in Human Behaviour studies to see that something is up. Could be that the person has aspirations of applying for a promotion in the near future and they’ve been told that unless they show some development and increased responsibility they’ll never get a chance. So what have they done? They’ve adopted some changes which they hope will change how they are perceived, and by continued practice of this change in behaviour, they hope to match the typical qualities of people successfully picked for promotion in the past.

As humans, we evolve and change; we mature, our priorities change, our outlook on things alters and with all of these shifts, it’s only natural that we may want different things at different points in our lives. We may start off ambitious, put in the overtime and work with zeal. Possibly we get comfortable and settle in to our titles, then grow restless later and feel we’re up for more challenges and more money to go along with them. Later, we might re-evaluate and ease back on the driving force we once had and then ride off into retirement.

As people come and go in our professional lives along our own journey, they will perceive us based on what they learn about us when they meet us. Meet us when we’re hungry and working with drive and hunger for more and more and we’ll be tagged that way. Come to know us as we are rounding out our career and they may see us as laid back, set in our ways, going through the motions.

If you feel you’re being perceived as too young or too old, first evaluate what about you is giving off those vibes; creating that branding. It’s not just the gray hair nor the remnants of teenage acne. It’s how we move, talk, act, behave etc.; all part of how we are perceived.

Change if you wish how others perceive you to fit with how you wish to be perceived.

 

The Boss Who Replaces Your Boss


Work long enough for an organization you’re bound to encounter a time when your boss moves on, replaced with someone else. If you’ve worked together for many years, it may seem odd to suddenly find yourself devoid of that relationship, especially if it was a productive one built on mutual respect.

I say it may be odd because when you spend years working together, you develop trust in each other, you know what to expect from each other, and you mutually invest in the relationship. It’s not policies and procedures that define a supervisor; it’s the little things like conversations at the start of the business day, inquiries about your family, your hobbies etc. It’s not so much the role of the person, in this case the boss; it’s the departure of someone who you came to develop a close working relationship with. You’d feel this same void if it was your office mate, the title of boss just adds a layer to the change.

Make no mistake, while your job didn’t change, with a change in supervisor, you still experience change. How you adapt to that change defines how well or poorly you perform moving forward. If you had a great boss – even a good boss, you will find yourself happy for them, especially if for a promotion or a lateral move they sought out. If they weren’t the best boss, you may find yourself grateful for the change, even euphoric; hopeful that the new boss will be a welcomed change from the former boss. Change however, it remains; change you must deal with.

Who replaces your boss is out of your control. Upper management usually determines what is needed in the office, factory floor or district. They may think a shake-up is required, some control re-established, or perhaps things need to remain exactly as they are. Depending on what upper management believes is required; you’ll find yourself with a new person in the role who best brings what is perceived to be needed. So you could find yourself with a new Sheriff in town if order needs to be restored, a Visionary if new direction is desired, a Whip Cracker if production needs increasing and some personnel changes are in order.

You could however, also discover that a clone replaces your boss; someone with similar characteristics in the role who doesn’t appear to be rocking the boat, making sweeping changes of any kind. This could be a strong signal that the team you work on, the department you work in, or the shift you work on is doing just fine the way it is. Not that complacency is encouraged, but this kind of change would indicate performance of the group you work within is appreciated.

There is an opportunity here for you when there is a changeover in your supervisor. In the first few days and weeks of the transition, you have a distinct advantage in knowing the strengths and weaknesses of both yourself and your team. You could request a, ‘get-to-know-you’ meeting with the new boss, where you sit down and share your role, your strengths and what motivates you. It’s also where you can demonstrate some genuine interest in the boss; where they came from, what motivates them, what’s their leadership style, their expectations. Yes they probably schedule some team meeting, deliver some message to a larger audience, but this 1:1 meeting is about defining your personal relationship with the new boss.

What a great opportunity to mentor the boss! This could be where you share an individual project you are working on, any unofficial role you play on the team, where the team looks to you for leadership. It’s also a wonderful chance to share your motivation, what makes you tick, your philosophy of service, priorities; preferences you have for getting feedback.

The most important thing about this changeover and your encounters with the new boss is that you be genuine. If you are playing up your role on the team, inflating your own importance or being overly flattering of the new boss, they’ll likely spot you for what you are; disingenuous. It’s probable that they’ve already been briefed on the personnel on their new team anyhow.

One of the best decisions you can make early in the transition to a new boss is to get on board with the plans they have. Being resistant; possibly even defiant isn’t going to win you any favours or put you on solid ground. You may have the advantage of time on the team, but they have the legitimate power to effect change which comes with their position, and probably have the blessings of their superiors too. Unless their plans fly in the face of the organization or will cause you to lose your job, the sooner you adapt to the new direction and the new way of doing things, the better for you.

If you’re fortunate, you’ll have a new boss you’ll come to value as much as the previous boss you enjoyed working with. If the departure of your previous boss is good news for you, see this as a fresh start. People are never identical and it’s important not to compare the new with the old. See and evaluate the person for whom they are and support them as you would any new member to the team.