How to Get a Job As a Computer Programmer – Surviving Your Probation Period As a Trainee

If you have recently succeeded in landing a corporate job as a trainee computer programmer then I congratulate you. If not then you have the right attitude in reading this article. This is because strategy is king in this endless chess game of corporate manoeuvring which we must all learn how to play if we are to get ahead.

In any case I will write this from the perspective of you having already secured a corporate computer programming job as a trainee. So you've accepted your offer and now it's time to turn up at your new place of work. What can you do to ensure that you get past probation?

In order to simplify and hopefully make for a clearer analysis of the approach you should take, I will divide your probation period into the beginning, the middle and the end.

Starting your probation period

Even if the dress code is casual I would advise dressing to at least a smart business casual standard on your first day. The exception here is if you have been told in no uncertain terms that nobody bothers. This does obtain in some places but in my experience most corporations do prefer at least a business casual dress code. Why is this so important for you on your first day? The underlying reason here is that you are sending a clear signal to your employers that you are taking nothing for granted.

Also at least in the initial phase it could pay you to take the trouble to go for lunch with your team mates if they do go for lunch together. You will learn a lot of unspoken rules by eavesdropping on their conversations over the lunch break.

Finally please be proactive about ensuring that you are properly set up with regards to your computer. If there are any delays then get the phone numbers or email addresses (if you have already been set up with an email account) and do your own chasing. Find out what needs to be installed in order for you to fully engage with the team and then get it installed.

Remember the clock started ticking the minute you walked through that door. Your goal here is to be up and running as soon as possible in order to create the maximum possible impact before the end of your probation period.

The middle of your probation period

If you are a trainee computer programmer, then the middle of your probation will generally begin after a couple of weeks. There are extreme cases where you could get hired and then be left to twiddle your thumbs (despite your best efforts to avoid this) for up to a month before you are suitably set up, but these occasions are rare. However be aware that this could indeed happen, so if it does not be too disconcerted.

Now as you ease yourself deeper into your trial period please remember that the degree of stupidity of the questions tolerated by your employer will be inversely proportional to your time on the job. In other words, the longer you've been there the more careful you have to be about asking dumb questions. This may well be a pretty obvious statement but let's think about it for a moment.

In my experience, asking dumb questions is a fast and easy way to learn a lot very quickly from those who already know. Some bright children know this hence they wear out their parents with question after question. The trick is to ask as many dumb questions as possible before your time runs out.

Many of us don't do enough of this. I certainly didn't in my first few jobs. But if you can remember to do this earlier on rather than later, then by the time your probation period is over you will be well ahead of the game.

Also try to remain fully focused on any tasks you have been given to do. There could be distractions but remember you are there to get the job done. All else is of secondary importance. This attitude is the hallmark of a true professional.

If you are left to your own devices you can try gently pestering your immediate superior for a clearly defined simple task which can demonstrate your capabilities. Remember that your superiors also have to deal with their own problems. Because of this they might not be able to give you enough attention to get you started. Watch out for this and assert yourself when necessary.

Finally don't be a clock watcher. Sometimes you will need to put in some extra hours in order to acquire the additional skills required to get the job done. See this as an investment in your future.

The end of your probation period

As your probation period draws to a close you should take stock of where you are up to. Have you been able to successfully complete the tasks you have been given? Do you feel that you fit in well with the team? Are you happy working there? Do a good bit of soul-searching in order that you will know where you stand in your mind before the probation period draws to a close.

More important than you being happy with them is the question of whether or not they are happy with you. This is more important because how they feel about you will determine whether or not you will be kept on.

If you have a strong intuition that you might be let go (for example there may be a personality issue) then maybe you should try looking around for something else before you get pushed. However if you have taken on board all the tips I have shared with you it will be extremely unlikely that this will happen.

However there is still the possibility that your term might end prematurely due to unforeseen circumstances like budget problems or departmental issues which lie well beyond your control.

For whatever reason if you do anticipate a premature end to your first job it will be easier to secure something else before being pushed rather than afterwards. So stay tuned and try to read between the lines. If you deem it necessary, call a meeting with your manager with a view to sourcing out what is going to happen to you.

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