It is common now and again to get stuck on a project that is not aligned with the skills and firepower you have, want to have, or the direction you want to take your career. It can feel like you are trapped or at a dead end. It can feel as though your skills are starting to become stale. No one wants to be on a project or in a job that is causing them to second guess what they’re doing. That is no way to go about what you chose to do in your work life. Here are my tips on how to position yourself to get on the project you want without coming across as not a team player.
1. Ask for more work (hear me out)
Even when you are already busy on the project you’re not overly excited about, ask for additional work rather than asking to be switched to a different project. Oftentimes your ability to add value and needed skills on your current project might get you reassigned to the project you enjoy doing most. I often hear from hiring managers that they look for people that have demonstrated the ability to go above and beyond even if it is not their ideal circumstances.
2. Meet 1 on 1 with your supervisor
Have a meeting 1 on 1 with the supervisor to discuss the types of skills and projects in the future you are interested in working on. Show your supervisor what technologies your training yourself on in your off time. It’s ok to express disappointment for the projects you wanted to be on but were passed up for, it’s all about demonstrating you’re a team player. Do your best not to come across too negative, it can turn off your supervisor and label you as a complainer. By communicating the types of projects you’re interested in and demonstrating you’ve been professional in completing projects that needed to be done, you will pave the way to the top of your supervisor’s mind for future projects.
3. Develop strong relationships with the non-technical stakeholders within your company
Try to get out of the office setting with them. One way to do this is to ask them to meet you at a coffee shop before work, get lunch, or after hour drinks. These informal meetings take effort and consistency. Oftentimes it’s difficult to get on a business leaders calendar but be persistent, the effort is well worth the work. Some of the most interesting projects come from the CEO’s or VP’s “pet project”, so by having an already established relationships with the non-technical stakeholders within your company you will often be the one they mention when they discuss with your boss about starting a new project. If they mention your name, it is pretty hard for your boss to say NO. Some people might view this as a political move, but trusted relationships matter in any line of work.
4. If all else fails, it might be time to consider your next move
As we all know marketable skills and market conditions change quickly, especially in technology. When people get stuck in a long dead end project most people become frustrated, disgruntled, and fall behind in developing a more modern skills set. If you are stuck on a long-term legacy project and you’ve done everything you can to try and transition to something new, it may be in your best interest to consider options outside of your company. No one other than yourself is responsible for your career and your ability to provide for you and your family.
I recommend starting your search on the various career sites such as Glassdoor, Indeed, and Career Builder. These are great resources in seeing what opportunities are out there and what company cultures are like.
If you want a more confidential and in-depth knowledge on a company’s culture and exclusive opportunities, I recommend partnering with a recruiter who’s an expert in your niche and has been in recruiting for 10 plus years (I know soft plug, but it’s true). In particular my firm, Emerald Resource Group, has 30 plus years of IT recruiting experience and has in depth local market knowledge. 97% of our clients and candidates become repeat clients and candidates that trust us to deliver the right person for the right opportunity and the best opportunity for the candidate’s career. I have helped many candidates make their next step in their career.
Life is short…
Not every project you are on is going to be the most exciting work of your career, but you know yourself better than anyone else. If you feel stuck, bored, or unhappy with the current projects you are on, it is probably time to find a way to make a change whether from within your company or external.
Early in my career, I did not solely recruit in IT. After a couple years into recruiting I leveraged my computer science education and identified my passion for helping IT professionals succeed. IT is a fascinating and ever changing landscape that makes me excited to walk into work every day. I want you to be excited to walk into work everyday. If you are interested in learning more, please feel free to reach out to me.