This episode was inspired by a couple of my engineering friends who have found themselves facing new responsibilities in their careers without the benefit of good guidance.
Today I have some insights for you on how to overcome this situation.
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The scenario goes something like this: You’re given a new job or new project assignment. It’s something different and challenging for you. You’re eager to get to work. But you don’t know where to start.
Your boss seems to be leaving it up to you. When you’ve asked for guidance, you’ve gotten little or nothing in return.
You feel overwhelmed by the project and frozen in place. What now?
There may or may not be a good reason why your boss isn’t giving you guidance. Bosses are all different. But consider that maybe:
- They’re swamped with other priorities.
- They’re new and learning the ropes themselves.
- They don’t realize you need more guidance or don’t know how to give it to you.
- They’re giving you autonomy and want you to figure it out yourself.
You do want to make sure you’ve clearly asked for guidance. Help your boss help you by specifically stating what you need guidance for and where you’re stuck. And, in some cases, you may need to ask more than once.
But assuming you’ve done all that, what now? How can you make progress on your new project with little or no guidance?
How to Make Progress with Little or No Guidance
Most of the time in these situations, you have to take the initiative. If you want something to happen, you’re gonna be the one to make a move. And you do want something to happen because this is your career and you want to keep it moving forward.
So here’s some guidance for how to set the stage and take meaningful action to get things rolling.
- First make some room for possibilities. Remove some of the fear and trepidation and allow a more positive perspective.
What you have here is an opportunity to apply your skills and strengths. An opportunity to apply the problem solving approaches you’ve learned as an engineer and make your contribution by finding a solution.
You have what it takes to make progress here. Trust yourself to manage the project successfully.
- Next determine who else can help you. Meet with them and ask for their input and advice.
Tap people who’ve been working in this area. People who understand the technology. People who have managed this kind of project before. Perhaps mentors, colleagues, or other managers. If you have a team, meet with them and get their input, too.
Take all of what you learn into account, but make your own decisions. Yours don’t have to be the same as what others might decide. There’s no right or wrong.
How to Outline your Project Strategy and Start Taking Action
- Finally, outline a strategy and start taking action. I’ve come up with a 10-step process to guide you. Follow these 10-steps – on your own or with your team – and you’ll soon have your project well in hand:
- State the goal simply and clearly.
- Brainstorm the possible pathways for reaching the goal.
- Assess which options are feasible and optimal.
- Choose your preferred option based on what you think is important.
- Outline a plan of the pathway to your goal.
- Strategize the milestones and steps.
- Prioritize an order of events.
- Determine first steps.
- Take the natural first next step.
- Check in with your boss to show progress and get feedback.
There’s nothing new or unusual about this process. You’ve probably heard some version of it before. But sometimes you just need a reminder that You Got This. Take what you know and apply it.
Regarding Step 10, touch base often with your boss or who you report to for this project. It’s easier to get feedback and guidance when you have progress to report. So show your progress. Continue to ask questions. And ask for feedback.
At this point you should be able to get some indication from your boss whether or not your approach is acceptable. And you can continue with your plan or make modifications as needed.
The moral of the story is that you need not be blocked from progressing in your career just because you’re not getting guidance right now.
You may not clearly know what your boss’s expectations are. But I can guarantee they don’t include stopping your progress. Your boss doesn’t want you to refrain from helping the mission. By you taking initiative, you’ll get the ball rolling again and hone your skills in the process.
Even when you feel lost in a new work environment or are otherwise unsure of how to proceed with your latest project, you don’t have to lose traction from lack of guidance.
Sometimes guidance – or the right person to give it – is just not available. Sometimes your work entails new territory and is beyond guidance. Trust in your own resources and your own ideas for getting started and making the project a success.
Having such autonomy is critical in your engineering career. It enables you to build skills like risk-taking and communication. And helps you stand out as a leader. If this is what you aspire to, I invite you to check out my Signature Program.
I’d love to work with you to achieve your career milestones and ensure you have impact and fulfillment. Fill out an application so we can set up a discovery call.
Next time on Her Engineering Career Podcast we’ll talk about setting the stage for your next promotion. I hope you’ll join me for Episode 45.