Contractors face unique challenges when starting a new assignment. If you feel overwhelmed, for example, it may be a problem with your organizational or communication skills. You may be spending too much time in your own head and not enough time communicating with your manager about progress on current projects and expectations for new work. Follow these six tips and you’ll quickly go from off-track and anxious to confident, competent and organized in your new contracting role.
1. Communicate early and often
Each time you are given an assignment, review the goals, the steps to be taken and the timeframe for completion. Take it one step at a time. If you didn’t start the job or the project this way, don’t worry; it’s not too late. For example, if you are helping your company implement new software, make a list of what you need to do and how you need to get there. Meet with your manager to maintain an ongoing dialogue and identify a list of shared expectations and priorities, so, as things change, you are in constant communication with one another.
2. Assess your progress
As you are working, take a step back and check if the actions are leading you to your goals. If not, reassess what you are doing and let your boss know immediately if you have questions or want to change course. For example, you’re an event planner who realizes halfway through the project the venue isn’t a match for the experience you want to give the attendees. Instead of focusing on what’s not working, approach your manager with an idea for a different, more appropriate venue and explain why and how the event will be more successful with this change.
3. Ask for help
When asking for assistance, come to the table with your proposed solution, for example, a new process workflow that will improve efficiency, then ask for help in implementing the idea since you are likely unfamiliar with how the company does this. Your proposed improvement and the sensitivity you show by asking for help will pave the way for future success.
4. Highlight progress and changes
Things change. Quickly. When you see things changing, check in with your manager to share what’s going well and how your work is tracking compared to the set timeline. Don’t wait. Communicate the same day as the changes arise. Confirm the new direction your work will take and what you will be working on the next day. Stay organized. And, don’t forget to smile and ask them how their day has been; it’s a great opportunity to build rapport!
5. Own your mistakes
Even the most competent and eager employees make mistakes. An organization grows when employees try new things and take risks. The key is to know when something you’ve tried isn’t working. Acknowledge the miss, and demonstrate what you are doing to correct it. For example, maybe you tried a new format for a spreadsheet but it turned out to be less effective than you thought. Instead of burying the mistake or sticking with something that isn’t working, think about how you can improve the situation and how you learned from the experience. Then approach your manager with an update. Any good manager will appreciate your efforts and will value your integrity.
6. Lend support
If you are on track with your work, you can offer to help with your manager’s projects. Everyone loves help, and managers appreciate employees who are so organized, they have the time and ability to help. Play to your strengths and offer assistance with the work you do best. In addition to building a positive relationship with your manager, this work can help you stay on track to progress in your career.
Planning ahead, being well organized and communicating early and often are the best tools for any contractor.Career advice | Contracting | Leadership & management | Workplace