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4 Steps to Conquer the Difficult Assignment

Busy-businessmanYou have just been handed the project. You know the one – the assignment no one else wanted, and even though you thought you were flying under the radar, the project still landed in your lap. Now what?

You have two options: run away from your boss’s office or face the project head on—and come away a victor. It’s up to you.

Don’t Daunt It, Flaunt It

I think we all face the “dreaded project” at some point or another in our careers, probably on more than one occasion. It can be particularly daunting as a young CPA to get an assignment that’s outside what you consider your realm of expertise, and sometimes, you just can’t say “no.” Yet, to think you will come out of the experience unscathed might not be realistic. Nevertheless, it’s my experience that you will learn and become empowered for the next big challenge.

Here are a few tips to help you handle the difficult assignment—and conquer it:

  1. Develop an action plan. Start by outlining how you will approach the assignment and do small chunks of the work at a time. By dividing one big project into smaller, more manageable tasks, you can achieve success in increments without being overwhelmed. This will help you digest the project, giving you some time to think it through.
  2. Get a group together. It’s okay to meet with your team or colleagues to gather information and solicit ideas. Simply talking through the process of the assignment with others can lead to great “light bulb” moments. And, more often than not you will find that someone else has previously encountered a similar project and can shed light on yours. Once you have a little experience under your belt with completing difficult assignments, you too will become a go-to person for others facing challenging work. Here’s where you get to “flaunt” what you’ve learned!
  3. Ask for help. It’s not a sign of a lack of ability to ask for guidance with a project. In fact, I think your manager and peers will respect you for raising your hand instead of completing the assignment incorrectly or insufficiently.
  4. Step back from the assignment. Take time out to look at the big picture—your action plan—every now and then and assess whether or not you are on track. Maintain an open dialogue with your manager so that, together, you can periodically review your progress on the assignment.

Be the Victor

It’s easy to feel a little apprehensive when you are handed a difficult assignment, especially if it’s your first big challenge in the workplace. Expectations can be high. You want to show that you can handle the task. With a little planning and collaboration, you will be able to meet the most challenging project head-on and come away victorious.

Have you conquered a difficult assignment? Share what you learned along the way with others.

Donna W. Salter, Senior Manager - Young Member Initiatives, American Institute of CPAs.

Busy businessman image via Shutterstock


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