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How Do You Get on the Right Projects?

Often when starting up a new job your are faced with the challenge of finding the right work and projects to be on. Sometimes you start a position that you are trained for and have done in the past, and is a simple extension of your previous employment. At other times, you are challenged because your new position requires new skills and talents that you will need to acquire to perform your new responsibilities. In both scenarios, it is an exciting position to be in. You can immediately make an impact with your skill set and/or you can quickly grow professionally be being placed in a challenging environment.

So how do you get where you need to be in your new position? There are lots of great strategies out there, and I would love to hear some of your ideas. From my experience, here are some suggestions:

1 – Open Communication with Supervisors

You need to immediately develop a dialogue with your supervisors. In the initial meetings, be sure to explain to them your skill sets and work that you have done in the past. It is in part their responsibility to bring out the best in you – but that won’t happen if you are not clear about your talents and skills. Have candid and honest communication. Your supervisor is there to help you out and you are there to immediately contribute to the organization, honesty and transparency is key here.

2 – Get to Know Your Co-Workers

Learn about what they have done in the past, ask what projects they have worked on, know what there skill sets are and learn how you can help contribute to the team. There could potentially be a current project they are working on that you could join.

3 – Before Starting a New Position – Do a Self Assessment

Sit down and write down your skills, what you need to improve and what talents you are bringing into the organization. This will help out with your early conversations with your supervisors and coworkers.

4 – Stay Motivated, Inspired and Passionate

Without this, you won’t get on the projects you want or need to be on to help advance your career. Find what you are truly passionate about, and run with it. Part of your responsibility as an employee is to know what your career goals are and how you can get there. If your house is in order and you are working hard on your end – management will notice and help guide you towards your goals.

5 – Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions and for Help

Co-workers hold so much knowledge about the organization, and being new, the tension is that you want to show you are capable and talented – but the hard truth is, you don’t know how everything operates. To get where you need to go, you will need to ask questions and learn from your co-workers experience. Coming into a new office and thinking you have all the answers is a recipe for disaster. Be humble, and learn from those around you.

I would love to hear what you have done in the past to grow professionally and start to get more high level work in your office. It’s not easy to do, and takes some time to really get settled in the organization. The key is to know your goals and communicate them with the team in a constructive way.



This post is brought to you by the GovLoop Careers Council. The mission of this council is to provide you with information and resources to help improve government. Visit the GovLoop Careers Council to learn more.

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Profile Photo Steve Cottle

Great list, Pat. I think 1-3 are really important to help you and your manager find the sweet-spot of being put on a project that you are uniquely suited to add value to, but that also offers you an ability to “stretch” or develop your skills.

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Profile Photo Andrew Krzmarzick

I definitely don’t think a positive attribute is saying “yes” to everything ;-).

One of the keys to getting on the right projects is being willing to say no to projects (if you can) that don’t accomplish your goals or that you know would tip you over the edge in being able to execute effectively in another, more important project. So it’s good to develop the ability to ask a supervisor, “If I perform this task, is it acceptable that I am able to give less attention to this other one that is arguably more valuable to the company and best uses my skill sets?”

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Profile Photo Patrick Fiorenza

I’d agree – but the tough part is putting yourself in a position in which you can say no. This is especially true when you are new. You just need to clearly communicate everything with your supervisor and keep things at the right scope.

There is an art to saying no – you can’t say it because you simply don’t want to do a project and you can’t say yes to every option that is presented. Sometimes it feels like a balancing…something that I think employees feel at all levels.

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