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6 Tips to Prepare Effectively for Your Probation Review

Probationary periods are a common feature of many workplaces, designed to give employers an opportunity to evaluate new hires before making a permanent commitment. This period can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months, and during this time, employees are expected to demonstrate their skills and abilities, adapt to the workplace culture, and meet performance expectations. At the end of this period, employees usually undergo a probation review, where their performance is assessed and their employment status is determined. Whether your official probation period is 3 or 6 months (or longer) there are a number of things to be mindful of as you start out in a new role to ensure that your probation not only goes smoothly but also that at the end of it, you are able to confidently demonstrate your value to your employer through 3-6 months of hard work and achievements.

If you’re approaching the end of probation and your review is just around the corner, it’s quite common to feel like you’re still somewhat of a newbie that’s only a few weeks in, and this is part of what makes probation reviews so daunting to many. But it’s important to remember that they are not only there for your employer to evaluate your performance, but also an opportunity for you to review your time with them, assess whether it has met your expectations as well as whether you’re on the right track to completing your career goals. To help make your preparation as foolproof as possible we’ve given our top 6 tips on how best to prepare for a probation review:

1. Review the Objectives and Expectations

Before the end of the probation period, you should review the objectives and expectations that were set for you at the beginning of your employment. This includes your job description, performance metrics, and any other targets or goals that were set for you. Not only will it help you get a good sense of what is expected of you, but it will also give you a solid idea of how your performance will be evaluated.

Then, compare them to your performance in each area. How well are you stacking up to expectations?  You should proactively identify any areas where you may be falling short, as this will allow you to possibly address these before the review and give yourself plenty to discuss with your manager. Furthermore, think about how the job description itself has met YOUR expectations and to what extent it was what you imagined. This way, you’ll be able to gauge how well yours line up with your manager’s and reveal any qualms or questions to be resolved or answered in the review.

2. Keep Track of Your Accomplishments and Review Your Work

Throughout your probation period, it’s important to keep track of your accomplishments and achievements. This includes any projects you have completed, goals you have reached, or improvements you have made in your work. Keeping a record of these accomplishments will make it easier to demonstrate your value to the organisation during the review and help you identify areas where you have excelled, as well as any area where you may need to improve in.

3. Seek Feedback

It’s important to seek feedback throughout your probation period, not just at the end as relying only on your own perspective when assessing your performance can make you blind to any shortcomings that you might otherwise have noticed and addressed, such as how you come across and how well you work within the team. Getting feedback from your colleagues will give you a better understanding of how you are performing, and where you may need to improve. Speak to your manager, colleagues, and other stakeholders, be open to constructive criticism and most importantly, use it to your advantage. Criticism is never easy to take but will always be most useful when seen as an opportunity to improve instead of something to be taken personally. Asking for your colleagues’ opinions and addressing any areas of concern will show that you are committed to your job, and willing to learn and improve.

4. Address any Issues or Concerns

If you are aware of any issues or concerns that may affect your probation review, it’s important to address these before the review. This could include any performance issues, conflicts with colleagues or managers, or any other challenges you may be facing. By addressing these issues proactively, you can show that you are committed to resolving them, and that you are taking your probation period seriously. Employee check-ins are a great way to voice any concerns you might have about your work and should be fully utilised if your firm uses it or any similar tools to receive feedback from employees.

5. Prepare for Common Questions:

While a probation review can feel like a step into the unknown, there are undoubtedly aspects of it that you can be very well-prepared for, such as common questions that are usually asked by managers to get your thoughts on certain areas of your work like the following:

  • What parts of the job have you enjoyed
  • What parts have you not enjoyed or are struggling with?
  • Is the role what you had in mind when you started?
  • What have you learned?

When discussing which aspects of the job you have or have not enjoyed, try to maintain a respectful and upbeat tone, as this might also include parts of the job you really struggled with, giving you the opportunity to voice any concerns. Professionalism is key here, as you don’t want to let this dominate the discussion and give your manager the impression that you’re trying to deflect criticism but rather, you should keep it clear and honest but concise and constructive, raising any suggestions on training or support that might be beneficial.

When asked about whether your expectations are being met, be honest about it and let them know if there’s anything you expected more or less of. Discuss whether it has brought you closer to achieving your career goals and what skills you expected to pick up during your probation. This is also a good opportunity to bring up what you’ve learned (if you’ve not been asked already) what training you’ve benefitted from and what tools you might’ve utilised that have helped improve your productivity, as it will show your manager how your value as an employee is increasing and give them an insight into how you work, learn and pick up new skills.

6. Stay Positive and Professional

Before we go on to discuss the possible results you can expect from your interview, it’s important to mention here that regardless of the outcome though, maintaining a positive and professional attitude will make for a better experience overall both during and after the review.

If you have performed well, this is an opportunity to demonstrate your value to the organisation and secure a permanent position. If you have not performed as well as you would have liked, then look at this as an opportunity to learn from your mistakes and improve your performance going forward. If the outcome is not what you had hoped for, don’t let it dampen or kill your confidence but rather see it as just a bump in the road of your career journey and something you can bounce back from with enough commitment to learning and improving.

What to Expect at The End of the Review:

There are three possible outcomes you can expect after your review, and whatever yours may be, it’s important to have the following points in mind so that you take a proactive approach to building on what you’ve learnt about your performance.

If you have passed – congratulations! Your hard work has paid off and you’re now a fully-fledged member of the team. Use this opportunity to think about what parts of your success you can build on and how you want to develop professionally going forward (our free guide on how to design your legal career can help with this). And remember, the tips in this guide can help with any formal reviews you might have in the future, so be sure to revisit it when necessary. It’s also worth checking in from time to time over the course of your employment to see if your career is on the right track and whether you’re any closer to achieving your career goals, and to help make this process clearer and easier, we have put together a career checklist you can use, which you can access here.

If your employer has come to the decision that your probation period will be extended, then it is likely because they do not feel that the requirements set out are being met and more time is needed to assess your performance. In this instance, it is important that you take any feedback and criticism to heart and take this opportunity to self-reflect and proactively apply what you’ve learned, so that you can go into your next review confident of how you’ve demonstrated your value to the company.

If you haven’t passed, either through your own choice, your employer’s or a mutual decision, then it’s a good time to start thinking about where to go from here. Consider the areas you have struggled/haven’t met expectations in and whether you might need further training to build your skillset. Use this as a springboard to get yourself closer to where you want to be, professionally.

At this point, it can be somewhat daunting not knowing how best to proceed and this is where speaking/re-engaging with a legal recruitment agency can be incredibly beneficial. Not only can their team of consultants aid you in putting together an improvement plan to boost your employability but they can make the job searching process far less stressful and time-consuming than it needs to be, and get you a role that best suits your skillset. The expert advice and support that they provide at this stage to help you move forward in your legal career can be invaluable. Our team at Clayton Legal are experienced in helping candidates navigate the job market and helping them every step of the way to get the most out of their job-searching efforts. If you find yourself unsure of which direction to take your legal career in, we’re here to give you all the support you need. Contact us here and let us help your career back on track.

End-of-probation reviews don’t have to be the necessary evil they are generally viewed as by candidates, as stated by Performance management software company, Lattice, in their article on Probation reviews, but done correctly, can be a constructive and positive experience for both parties especially if approached with openness and honesty, helping to set a realistic foundation for what happens next in your legal career. Your probation review can only be as helpful as you make it, and the right mindset and approach to it will be the key to how well you progress afterwards.

 

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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Posted By

Joel Okoye

Digital Marketing Apprentice

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Sailing Through The First Month Of Your New Legal Role

  • March 5, 2023

The truth is that the interview process lasts a lot longer than you might think…

According to a survey shared in Entrepreneur, approximately 46% of workers plan on finding a new position in 2023. And, despite the uncertain economic climate, those considering a move are just as confident in their job prospects as they were six months ago.

If you’re one of the many likely to take the next step in your career path this year, it’s important to think carefully about how you will make the right impression from day one – after all, getting through the interview process and being offered a role is very much stage one. And whilst there is (rightly) much cause for celebration, even after a hiring manager has offered you a role in their firm, it is still crucial that you validate their decision that they made the right choice in hiring you.

The first 30 days in a new role can be both nerve-wracking and exciting in equal parts. There are new processes and technologies to get used to, new people to meet, and new expectations to live up to. Plus, this first month will likely form part of a formal probation period where your employer (and you) will be assessing suitability and ‘fit’ as a new employee.

Knowing how to orient yourself in the first month in your new position not only improves your chances of impressing your boss, but it could also mean you start experiencing the full benefits of your new job much faster.

Step 1: Form Crucial Connections

Internal networking is one of the most important things you can do during the first few weeks in a new role. Getting to know the people you work with will improve your experience within your new firm and make you feel more comfortable in your position.

Communicating with others is also a great way to capture the attention of your managers and senior leaders. During your first couple of weeks with a new company, find out who you will be working with regularly, and commit some time to get to know each colleague.

It’s also worth finding out who you should be approaching if you have questions or concerns about your role. Discover when your contacts are most likely to be available, and determine how they prefer to communicate (E.g. in person, email, chat, or video).

For individuals who are working remotely, technology has advanced at lightening speed over the last few years – so there is no excuse to not reach out and get to know your team members, albeit virtually.

Step 2: Learn as Much as You Can

Even as an experienced legal professional, during your first month with a new law firm, you’ll have a lot of learning to do. You’ll need to become familiar with the internal processes you’re expected to follow, the policies you must adhere to, and the general workflow of the people around you.

Focus on expanding your knowledge in areas relevant to your role. For instance, asking for more information about the clients your law firm serves or how your team manages projects and deadlines might be beneficial. Read up on the documentation given to you during your onboarding session, and consider asking for extra training if necessary.

It’s also worth paying attention to your surroundings, so you can learn how to embed yourself into the company culture. Consider the company’s values and how you can showcase them in your work. Ask yourself how people communicate and collaborate so you know what to expect when connecting with others.

Step 3: Confirm Expectations

Hopefully, during the hiring and onboarding process, your firm will have given you some insights into what kind of work will be expected of you and how that work will be assessed. However, it may be helpful to confirm the expectations of your manager or supervisor with them.

Arrange for a one-on-one meeting with your manager if this has not been covered during the onboarding process, where you can discuss exactly what your leaders will be looking for when evaluating your work. Make a list of key performance metrics your business will monitor when assessing you.

It might be helpful to arrange additional meetings with your manager, bi-weekly or monthly, during the first stages of starting your new role. This will allow you to collect feedback and ensure you’re adhering to the expectations set for you. Many firms will have a formal performance review system in place, particularly for new starters – but if not, do ask for regular feedback. You don’t want to get to your probation review in 3 or 6 months time and learn things aren’t going as planned….especially when it will be too late to do anything about it.

Step 4: Find the Best Time to Ask Questions

When starting a new legal role, it’s tempting to ask many questions straight away. Asking questions is a great way to learn and show you’re invested in succeeding in your new position.

However, there’s a time, a place to ask, and a time when you need to listen.

Focus most of your time on what’s happening around you. If you have questions or need clarification, write down what you need to know. Prioritise the information you need first and ask yourself when it might be best to put certain questions off until you have a chance to meet with your manager face-to-face.

Step 5: Constantly Demonstrate Your Value

Once you know what’s expected of you in your new role and clearly understand the firm’s vision and mission, you can begin to demonstrate your value. During the first 30 days of a new legal role, you have a unique opportunity to prove to your hiring manager that they made the right choice when selecting you.

Start implementing strategies for quick wins based on what you know about how your work will be evaluated. For instance, if you know your manager is concerned about ensuring projects are completed on time, plan your schedule carefully, and keep them up-to-date with your progress as you complete each task.

Show your commitment to constantly improving and growing by volunteering for extra training sessions, asking for a mentor to guide you, or requesting feedback whenever possible.

In Conclusion

The first 30 days of your new career can be critical to your long-term career plan. Regardless of whether you’re starting in a position with a new company, or you’re exploring the new responsibilities that come with a promotion, be prepared and know how to put your best foot forward. By learning what to focus on from day one, discovering which skills and habits you need to demonstrate, and letting go of the things that might be holding you back, you can impress your manager which will
affirm in their mind that they made the right decision.

The good news is that there are a number of time-tested strategies that you can implement from day one.

As well as the top tips already mentioned, we have also produced a more in-depth guide to provide you with everything you need to know to streamline the transition into a new role. From habit-forming, to the types of questions you should be asking, the guide will ensure that you will be ready to hit the ground running, and make the right first impression in your new company. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals, and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help.

Call us on 01772 259 121 or get in touch with us here

 

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Passing Probation – 6 Steps to Success in Your New Legal Role

  • October 31, 2022

If you’re reading this, then chances are you’ve managed to succeed in doing two things:

The first, is finally getting that legal role you’ve worked long and hard to land, for which you owe yourself a massive pat on the back and a huge congratulations once again.

Now that your foot is firmly through the door and you’ve been introduced to your colleagues and starting to get on with the job at hand, this next 3-6 months (or perhaps longer) is crucial to ensure you breeze by the next milestone in your career – passing your probation.

Probationary Period: A Definition

According to the CIPD, a probationary period is the time where your employer will be assessing your suitability for the role and general capabilities identified at the interview stage.

As a general rule in the UK legal sector, probationary periods last anywhere between three and six months, depending on the level of the role – and is also a period where you too are assessing your own suitability and ‘fit’ as a new employee.

I’m sure at this early stage in your new role, a thousand and one things must be running through your head at this thought, such as your hitting your objectives, impressing your manager and peers, and generally meeting their expectations – and it’s probably taken up quite a bit of headspace already. The truth is that a lot of these worries can be quelled by taking a few simple steps to ensure you’re on the right trajectory to become a bonafide part of the furniture.

The first thing to say is that you’ve already got this far by making a killer first impression – talking about your skillset and suitability for the role throughout the interview process. However, this next crucial stage is about demonstrating that suitability.

And, whilst the first few months in a new role can often be somewhat of a rollercoaster as you settle into your new team, the environment, and the workload, our top 6 tips below should help to ensure you tick all the boxes as you head towards that all-important probation meeting in a few months’ time.

1. Don’t forget the basics

Dress code, punctuality and the right attitude are all non-negotiables if you’re serious about standing out to your manager and colleagues. Make sure your appearance is neat and professional and in line with the firm’s dress code policy. You should also be mindful of avoid unnecessary absences, if at all possible, as well as frequent tardiness. Getting to work and meetings prepared and on time is important at all stages in your career, never more so than in these first impactful first few months.  Basic as they may seem, having these things covered can do a lot to calm the nerves and help you settle in well in those first few weeks.

2. Consider the ‘double-A criteria’

I’m sure one of the first things that spring to mind when thinking about your probation is how you’ll fare compared to expectations regarding your ability and competence when doing your job – after all, that is the crux of what you’ll be assessed on during your end of probation review. However (believe it or not) your competence in your role is less likely to be the reason you’d fail your probation.

During your hiring process, your legal recruiter as well as those hiring at your law firm, will have assessed your CV, qualifications, experience, and skills aligned to the job role – and this first few months are now how you demonstrate what we call the ‘double-A criteria’

  • Attitude and
  • Aptitude

HRmagazine in the UK and LeadershipIQ in the US shared extensive data that confirms that attitudes drive over 89% of hiring failures, while a lack of technical ability came in at only 11%. Career Builder shared similar alarming research that 30% of managers had sacked staff for poor timekeeping.

Therefore in summary, it will be your mindset, your can-do attitude, and your positivity that will hugely impact your success over this critical period.

Plus, if there are things you are perhaps struggling with technically, it is highly likely your new firm will offer training and support to upskill. A positive attitude and will to succeed however can’t be taught – so you need to ensure you bring this to the table yourself.

3. Be obsessive about organisation

Staying on top of your work is paramount in any context and your first week or two in your new role is no different. As you’re gradually eased into the job and given more responsibility, staying organised will give you the opportunity to not only show your boss you’re productive but also that you’re capable of handling the workload and are completely on top of things.

There are many productivity and ‘work management’ tools out there that can help massively with this, too, such as Monday.com, Asana or Trello  – many of which offer free access (for the basic product) or at least a free trial period.

These powerful 3rd party tools are great for cross-team collaboration, reporting and project management, yet it’s also worth saying that even an Excel spreadsheet or a notebook that helps you keep track of tasks and to-do lists are a great starting point.

4. Don’t be afraid to speak up

Particularly if you aren’t sure how to do something, have questions, or generally need help. I’m sure you’ve heard this one over and over and undoubtedly it can be easier said than done when all you’ve got on your mind is how to impress your manager and peers.

The reluctance to ask questions often stems from new recruits not wanting to come across as incompetent or being unable to use their own initiative, however being inquisitive is a truly positive trait that can have the opposite effect. In your first few weeks for example, you’re going to have a lot of information thrown at you and unless you’ve got an unusually great memory, you’re simply not going to be able to remember every single thing you’re told (even if you’re able to get most of them down on paper). Asking questions or simply saying ‘I don’t understand’ can and will show your colleagues and employers that you’re invested in learning more about your role and giving yourself the best chance of succeeding in it.

Plus, according to a recent article in Forbes, there may actually be a ‘risk’ in assuming you do know – so always raise your hand, put your head above the parapet, and be vocal to get clarification (and demonstrate your enthusiasm and willingness to learn).

5. Be proactive

The first few months of your probation present an excellent opportunity to raise your professional profile via networking, whether it be with colleagues at the workplace or with other legal professionals at external events.

Depending on the size of your firm, there may also be internal committees, programmes or steering groups to get involved in such as those focused on Corporate Social Responsibility, business improvements or pro bono projects in the community. Getting involved in things like these early on will undoubtedly help to solidify relationships with others in the business – and more than likely, other individuals outside of your direct team or department. As well as demonstrating that you are passionate about the business, it also, by proxy, raises your profile throughout the firm as someone who (already) has a vested interest in its future.

6. Leave time to prepare for your review

With all of the above to consider, as well as the job and workload itself, those first few weeks and months will undoubtedly fly by – yet it’s so important not to leave any preparation for your official ‘probation review’ until the very last minute.

Hopefully your manager engages regularly (either informally or through more formal 121s perhaps) on your progress and how you’re settling in, but either way, this final meeting is usually the chance where the ‘pass’ decision comes to a head.

There are various steps you can take to ensure you feel fully prepared:

1. Re-read the job description:

It will help remind you of the tasks and responsibilities of your role and you can use it to gauge whether you’re meeting expectations or are falling short. You can also use it to see whether there are big discrepancies between what the job description says and what your experience has been. It can help you to know ahead of time what you’ll be assessed on in the meeting.

2. Review your work so far:

Focus on three key questions that are almost guaranteed to come up in the meeting:

  • what have you enjoyed working on?
  • Is there anything that you haven’t enjoyed working on?
  • What have you learned so far?

3. Speak to your co-workers:

Be aware that you’ll receive critical advice aimed at helping you improve. Use it as an opportunity to make improvements where you need to (and try not to take it personally).

And finally,

A probation period is often quite daunting as you do your best to settle into a new firm, engage in new professional relationships, and work hard to build on that great first impression your employer had of you back at the start of the process.

However, it’s also a great time for you personally to reflect on what you have learned so far at this juncture, how much you have already added value to your new employer, and how far you have come since that first day walking into the office (or logging on to the IT system).

Passing your probation is the final milestone that will see you become an official member of the team and for that reason should be treated as a crucial step in your career advancement – yet with a few simple steps and preparation, should be one you pass with flying colours.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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