New Hire Challenges: How to Succeed in Your Probationary Period as an Engineer

As an experienced recruiter in the Building Services sector, I've seen my fair share of new engineering hires enough to say that there are two kinds of employees: 

  1. Those that want to work hard, doing anything to continue working with the team.

  2. And those that want to stay home, dragging their feet to work just to put out the bare minimum effort.

Moreover, I can tell them apart in the first six months. Within that half year, true colours will show. It's probably why human resources (HR) across industries often impose a six-month probationary period before an employee can be considered long-term.

During this time, employees are evaluated on their work quality, ethics, teamwork, and other factors to see if they're a good fit for the company—regardless of their experience and credentials.

If you're a soon-to-be or newly-minted engineer, then pat yourself on the back. You've worked hard to get where you are, and you're about to embark on an exciting and rewarding career. To settle into your new role, you'll need to complete your probationary period successfully, which you can ace with all our tips below.

6 Expert Tips to Pass an Engineer's Probation Period

It’s normal to feel anxious about the probationary period.

Fortunately, there are steps you can do to set yourself up for success and make a great impression during your first few months on the job. Use the tips below to position yourself for a long, successful career in engineering.

1. Learn the Culture

Familiarise yourself with how things work around the office, such as the unspoken rules, social customs, and communication norms. Every company has its way of doing things, so take the time to learn and adhere to the culture of your new organisation—beyond whatever the HR said during orientation.

One way to do this is by finding a mentor within the company who can show you the ropes and help you acclimate to your new surroundings. If you don't have someone to help you, reach out to your manager and ask if there's someone they recommend learning from.

Specifically for engineering, learn about your company's engineering process, how they operate daily, and how they handle emergencies or sudden changes. Doing so will help you understand what's expected of you, how you can contribute to projects, and what the standards are for deliverables.

2. Know the People

Building solid relationships with the people you work with in any job is essential, but this is especially true in engineering, where teamwork and collaboration are critical. After all, successful engineering can only happen when everyone is on the same page and working together towards a common goal.

One of the best ways to get to know your colleagues is to schedule regular one-on-one meetings with them, even if it's just for 15 minutes every week or two. These catch-ups are an excellent opportunity to chat about projects you're working on, any challenges you're facing, and what they've been up to lately.

It's also helpful to socialise with your coworkers outside of work hours from time to time. Whether going for drinks after work or grabbing lunch together on your break, getting to know your colleagues personally will make it easier to collaborate effectively with them when you're on the clock.

3. Set Realistic Expectations

One of the mistakes you can make during your probationary period is setting unrealistic expectations for yourself and the team. If you're constantly putting pressure on yourself to perform at an impossible level, you're only going to end up stressed out and disappointed—affecting your overall mood and performance.

Instead, focus on setting achievable goals that you can realistically accomplish within the timeframe of your probationary period. Doing so will help you stay sane and give you a chance to prove to your team that you're capable and reliable.

As an engineer, setting realistic expectations is a slippery slope—given the work's complex and often unpredictable nature. Things can and will go wrong without any warning, so you must manage your expectations and the expectations of those you're working with.

4. Communicate like an Extrovert

Effective communication is essential in any job, but it's especially significant and crucial in engineering. You need to clearly articulate your ideas and understand the concepts of others to get projects completed effectively and efficiently.

Yes, talking a lot can be daunting if you're shy. Start by asking questions about your job that you are unsure about. Doing so will help you understand what others are thinking and saying to you.

It's also a good idea to encourage open communication among your team members. Whether you're an associate or a manager, creating an environment for everyone to speak up comfortably will ensure everyone is on the same page, and no details are overlooked.

5. Take Advantage of Resources

There are a ton of engineering resources out there, so take advantage of them. Whether it's online forums, professional organisations, educational resources, or special data from your company, there's no shortage of ways to stay updated and knowledgeable on the latest trends and technologies.

The more you absorb valuable knowledge, the more you'll graduate with flying colours. In the engineering world, the better you are at your job, the more likely you are to be regularised, promoted, and receive raises.

Moreover, if at any point in the job you feel lost or overwhelmed, don't hesitate to ask for help from your team or your manager. They'll point you in the right direction and resources to learn. They won't doubt you if you present your weaknesses as areas where you can improve, especially if you're self-aware of them.

6. Keep Up with the Dynamic Role

The engineering field is constantly changing and evolving, which means there's always something new to learn. And while it's important to be updated on the latest trends and technologies, you need to be patient, proactive, and flexible in your learning process:

  • Patience: Nobody becomes a genius overnight. Instead, becoming one takes daily persistence, confidence, and discipline. These are key traits of successful engineers that stems from having patience with themselves, especially when challenges get tough.

  • Proactiveness: Adapt to new situations quickly and efficiently. Don’t wait for something to happen before springing into action—you’ll miss learning opportunities and have a difficult time catching up with the rest of the team.

  • Flexibility: Encourage yourself to stay the course, trust the process, and you'll see everything becoming easier in the long run. Don’t be afraid to try new things, adapt to changes, and work with what you have instead of wishing for more.

If you want to prove yourself a worthy engineer, continuously educate yourself and level up your skills. Find ways to stay sharp and keep your mind active. The more knowledge you have, the better equipped you'll be to handle whatever comes your way—impressing your supervisors in the process.

Building the Foundation of Your Engineering Career

The six tips we've shared in this article will help you build the foundation of your engineering career. They're essential qualities and skills that every engineer should possess, so they’ve made their way into HR and managerial criteria for evaluating new hires. 

If you're just starting out, ensure that you keep these tips in mind and work on developing the qualities over time. And if you already have some of these skills, excellent! You're well on your way to becoming a successful engineer. Just remember, your goal is to make the company want to keep you around. 

You are the engineer they need—go prove it.


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