This assignment -- along with its longstanding processes and its related team members -- was all brand new to me. And, if that wasn't enough to have me breathing into a paper bag, managing this project also required me to branch out and exercise some skills that I had previously left untapped.
My chest gets tight at the very thought. Can you relate? Being asked to take on a new work endeavor is a great thing (hey, you must be doing something right!). But, it can also plant plenty of seeds of self-doubt.
Fortunately, this recent experience opened my eyes to some better, more productive things you can do when you're tasked with a new project -- aside from just panicking.
1. They do their research.
Taking on an entirely new project can often resemble being buried under an avalanche of information. There are tasks you need to understand, schedules you need to adapt to, roles you need to familiarize yourself with -- it all feels overwhelming.
Before you start tearing your hair out, dedicate a solid chunk of time (we're talking at least an hour or two!) when you can sit down, focus, and wade your way through the details of that project that have already been provided.
When doing so, keep a notebook handy where you can jot down any random thoughts. Whether it's questions you need to be sure to ask or certain elements that you think need to be tweaked, keeping all of those tidbits in one place will make sure you get those things taken care of -- when they could otherwise get lost in the shuffle.
Think of this as laying the groundwork. By taking the time to get a solid understanding of what the project is, what it requires, and what's been done so far, you'll feel far more empowered to spearhead it moving forward.
2. They ask questions.
Even with adequate research under your belt, you're still bound to have questions and areas that require clarification. If you take nothing else away from these tips, remember this: When you're new at something, it's more than alright to need help -- in fact, it's to be expected.
Yes, having question after question is usually enough to make you feel like a pest. So, rather than posing your inquiries the second they come up, keep your questions organized in one, centralized space.
Then, schedule a dedicated chat with someone who could answer them -- whether it's a supervisor, a team member, or even someone who managed this project before you.
Getting to ask all of your questions in one face-to-face conversation will not only make sure you get all areas of confusion cleared up, but it'll also likely help you see the bigger picture and how different elements of that project fit together.
3. They map out their own processes.
Whether you're grabbing the reins and taking over an assignment that was previously handled by someone else or you're starting from scratch, there are likely some existing processes and workflows in place that dictate how you should move forward.
That can be a great starting point. However, don't think that means that you can't identify your own way of doing things.
Perhaps you have an idea for how the entire process could be streamlined. Or, maybe you'd prefer to use a specific platform to keep things organized and everybody in the loop. Don't be afraid to identify the areas where you think there's room for change.
Not only does mapping out your own process give you a greater sense of ownership over that particular project (which is especially helpful if someone was managing it before you!), but it also might end up improving on the way things previously were done.
4. They recognize that they'll make mistakes.
Are you ready for a reality check? When you're taking something new on, you're probably going to make a few mistakes. It's hard to hear, but it's the truth.
Even personally with the new project that's on my plate, I've already sent an email to the incorrect person and rearranged the schedule no less than 15 times.
That can be frustrating and disheartening. However, it's also just part of the process. Nobody (with the exception of yourself!) expects you to get everything perfect when you take your very first crack at it. The sooner you can accept that reality, the less terrified you'll feel of taking charge.
New projects can be intimidating. But, in those moments when you wonder how you got yourself into this mess, remind yourself of the good that you're doing. After all, nothing improves your professional reputation more than being the person who's always willing to step up to the plate.