Friday, October 07, 2005

Keep from Getting Lost in the Shuffle

When you're on a big project team, it's pretty easy to be overlooked. Generally, these large projects (those with more than 30ish people) represent spectacular opportunities. You'll meet people from all over the company, especially those who may not work in your practice or serivce line. You'll run into a plethora of senior managers and partners who can keep you in mind for future projects. And let's face it, big projects mean you'll be billable for a long time. No need to hunt for projects every few months - huge projects take care of that for you.

The problem with these substantial opportunities is that it's easy to get lost in the crowd. You can wind up doin ga spectacular job, and your performance review for the project may not reflect the work you actually did. You could have an amazing idea in the middle of a project - executed beautifully. Four months later, when the project is coming to a close, it's forgotten. So, your performance review could wind up overlooking many of your important contributions.

There is an even worse scenario. During the project, you could be forgotten completely. This has happened to me twice. I remember staring at the four walls of a hotel room in Kalamazoo (not kidding) that we used as a satellite office for the project. What a waste . . . I also spent the better part of a month outside in the smoking area when I worked on a project here in Manhattan. In both cases, the efforts were so large that the leadership forgot they had me around. This can be disastrous for you. At the end of the project, whether or not it was your fault you were overlooked, somebody has to review your performance. If they have nothing to say, that's exactly what your review will reflect.

How can you avoid these problems? Actually, it's easier than you think. First, always keep a project journal. Every day (if you have lots of time on your hands) or more realistically every week, keep track of what you accomplished. Good meetings with clients, ideas you contributed, and tasks you completed are the most effective entries into your journal. Don't sink a lot of time into this. Twelve months from now, the four or five lines you wrote about what you did this week might be helpful.

To keep from being forgotten - which can and does happen - you need to remain prominent; you have to stay in the game somehow. The easiest way to do this is to review every project deliverable that gets circulated through your workstream and have something constructive to say. This shows that you are staying in touch with the work that is being done. Another idea is to volunteer for a role that coordinates acrivities between members or work streams - such as version control or document management.

If you stay in the middle of the action, your career and morale will benefit significantly.

Tom Johansmeyer


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