I work for a research team in a large company in France, and today I've had my probationary interview. Normally, if things go quite right, they guarantee the position after the interview, or if not, they either terminate the probation period, or extend it by two months. For my case, it was extended by two more months, with the complaint that "I didn't take good ownership of the projects and didn't become fully autonomous." So, I'm starting to prepare for the second probationary exam in June, but I'd appreciate if you could give me the answers to a few questions:

1) What exactly is meant by: "I didn't take good ownership of the projects."? Does it mean that I didn't define the problems well enough?

2) I'm bit confused by "...didn't become fully autonomous". I did come up with a few problems, and solved them partially or fully. I did ask for a few discussion from my manager, but not a lot, and at the end, it was not he who gave the solution, it was me.

I'm having a meeting with my manager tomorrow , where we're supposed to discuss on how we can better communicate. What kind of questions should I ask, and what should I not ask?

Is there a suggestion that you can give me for how to prepare for my second interview?

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    The two questions you asked should be addressed to you manager tomorrow. Ask what exact steps do you need to take to address those two areas of concern. – ventsyv Apr 22 at 17:02
  • All of this is highly situation dependent and industry dependent and job dependent, so I am not sure that we can help. – Matthew Gaiser Apr 22 at 17:13
  • @JoeStrazzere It's true I didn't ask them - I was a bit upset in the meeting upon hearing that my probation will be extended for two more months. But more so, it was the HR who said those words, but I knew it was essentially the manager's words. I'm having a discussion with him tomorrow. – Mathmath Apr 22 at 20:04
  • @ventsyv Yes, I'm meeting him tomorrow, will ask these questions. – Mathmath Apr 22 at 20:05

First I think 1) and 2) are really the same thing. Apparently the company wants you to take ownership and act autonomously. This means, treat your product/ modules / whatever it is you are responsible for as if they where more or less your business. Think about how to develop it forward, manage deadlines and priories, communicate with stakeholders and never loose the business value you are delivering out of focus.

This ranges widely from company to company - some just want obedient worker bees that work to spec and don´t ask too many questions, some prefer the employees thinking for themselves and actually take part in driving the business. (and everything in between) Seems you landed in a company that leans more to the latter than the former.

When talking to your manager, ask him to what extent you are "autonomous". What are your responsibilities and what are your powers to fulfill those?

PS: I don´t think that asking questions or asking for help is counting against "taking ownership". Realizing where you need help and and acquireing it is part of owning your product.

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Is there a suggestion that you can give me for how to prepare for my second interview?

Write down everything you were told that you still don't understand.

Make sure you don't leave the second interview without a complete and thorough understanding of everything they are asking you to do, and how you can fulfill their requests.

If you enter a second probation period confused, you might as well just start updating your resume.

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I have never worked in France, but hopefully there isn't a huge difference in culture there from where I am. The questions you're posing to us are pretty much what you should ask. Since they are providing feedback, it's fair to follow up on that feedback if you don't know how to change or improve so you can meet their expectations. What you may want to ask for are specific metrics you can track. If you can't get metrics, at least getting a qualitative list of areas of improvement paired with specific things they want you to do differently will help you narrow down your focus. You might also ask your manager if you can plan on having regular meetings between now and your next interview where you can discuss your progress and make sure you're improving while still maintaining good standing in the areas that you didn't need to improve. You really should be having regular meetings with your manager anyway, but having a monthly meeting that focuses on your performance would be valuable.

Your manager may deflect or outright refuse to provide any of this. That would be unfortunate if you like the job, but at least you'll know that you can expect to be judged by your management without clear explanation to improve. I'd leave it up to you if keeping the job is worth it to you at that point.

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