Reading, Reading and more Reading
Expect to do a lot of reading the first week you are on the job. You will be given information about the organization, what benefits they have and forms that you need to fill out. Read and learn as much as possible. This may require you to do the reading on your own time or during break or your lunch hour.
Meeting new people
You will also be introduced to a lot of new people and told what they do. You will most likely be given the staff phone list and an organization chart. If not, ask for it. You should keep these readily available to remind yourself who does what as you will need to refer to that often.
New hire information
When you first start a job, you will be given lots of information that you need to know about your new job. You should have a time of training with someone who can give you an overview of what you need to do and be available for any questions. Depending on the responsibilities required there may be an overlap with the person who was previously in the job. This is nice, but not always practical as they most likely gave their two weeks' notice ending on the Friday and you start on the Monday. If you do have the opportunity to meet with the person already in the job, take advantage of it and make sure you take notes and ask as many questions as you can. Sometimes the person is still in the organization and has just moved on to another position. Keep in mind this person will need to get up to speed on their own responsibilities, but should also be available to give you some guidance. Again, take notes and make the best use of the time you have with them.
When I start a new job I always start a job manual and write down as I go along what my new responsibilities are and any pertinent information I need. You want to avoid asking the same questions over and over. Best to write the answers down for future reference.
If you take a job and they already have a job manual for the position that is a bonus. This manual should be read cover to cover and marked up with any questions you have. Consider this your job bible.
I always appreciate questions from new hires as it gives me a good idea of their understanding of what they need to do and where they might need more direction. I like to see them writing things down and when a similar situation comes up they look to their notes for the answers. The goal is to get as self sufficient as soon as possible because this is now your job, but it is always expected there will be questions. If you don't have a copy of the job description, ask for it and go through it with any questions you might have about the position.
I also recommend that some questions should not be asked of your boss, but perhaps another admin assistant would be a better person to ask. You don't want to give your boss the impression you don't know what you are doing. There is a certain expectation that if you take an admin job you have the basics such as typing, meeting organization and a knowledge about certain software programs.
The probation period is a good time for both parties to get to know each other, to learn about the job responsibilities and to determine if they are a good fit for the organization. Sometimes this is a stressful period for a new employee as they want to do well, but keep in mind the employer is expecting a time of learning so use this time to learn as much as you can about the job. You should be prepared to work extra hard to get up to speed in the first month.
I always recommend to people who take temporary assignments to consider themselves on probation as well as you never know if it might turn into a full-time job.
Prepare for it
When I first started my new job I didn't have a lot of the background I knew I was going to need, but I felt I was up for the challenge. I had two weeks to get myself as much up to speed as possible before starting the job. I took a course I knew I would need and met with a few of my friends who had experience in some areas I felt I was lacking. When I started my first day on the job I was as much prepared as I could be before actually arriving at the office. There was going to be a lot of new things that I would need to learn, but at least I had done my homework.