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I just joined an IT-project which has started a few months ago. On my first days, it was as usual: My team colleagues showed me the software they are developing, explained things about the infrastructure, showed the code to me etc. I got some easy tasks in order to get used to their environment and their software.

A few weeks later, I finished my tasks, and since then I am asking every day what I should do next. As answer from my colleagues I usually get:

  • I am preparing something for you currently...
  • You could do thi... oh, no, you can't, something is broken there, I have to fix it first!
  • Hmmm no currently not...

Sometimes I get something to do, however these are more diffucult tasks because their software is quite complex and we do it together. This would be okay, but it usually takes only half an hour until there is nothing left to do again.

Our team lead decided that whe should work together on a certain feature. Therefore I am asking my colleagues now how I can help them.

I have the appropriate skills for this project, so this should not be the problem. I also usually prefer to work indepentently instead of asking again and again what to do next. In the last project I worked I had an important role and had always enough tasks to do. I was responsible for certain parts of the software and I really enjoyed it.

I am tired of sitting around the whole day without anything to do, begging for tasks and not getting any. How can I improve this situation?

  • 1
    Don't you have a project lead? – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Apr 17 '13 at 11:34
  • Since it is complex new development, and everyone is busy, I would take the time you have now, and get to know more about the libraries that it uses. For example, I've been on a project that required the integration of a lot of systems so I learned about Apache Camel and Spring Integration. Here are some things I've done in the past when in that awkward stage of a project: write/study the UML diagrams of the project to deepen my knowledge about as a whole, learn more about the business side of the project, and google for things that are similar to the project to see what they encountered. – Xenson Apr 17 '13 at 15:47
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Getting new work

I think that part of the issue here is that you are asking your colleagues to assign you work.

It is likely that your colleagues are busy with their own work and don't have the time to set aside to sort things out for you.

I'm assuming that there will be a team lead or that you will have a boss of some kind. I suggest you talk to them as your boss is supposed to aid in your time management and workload.

Let them know that you would like more work, or ask how you can help, what you can help with, failing that ask what you could be learning to make yourself more useful and desirable.

You are correct in thinking that it is bad to be sat around doing nothing, but in my experience there is usually always something to do.

If that work you occasionally get IS difficult then spend some time getting familiar with it. If you are allowed then revise it, learn it, get used to it's ins and outs so that the next issue that pops up you can deal with.

But at the end of the day it will always come back to needing more work, but you need to make sure you are asking the right people. Your boss, team lead or project manager are the right people to ask, assigning tasks, time management etc is usually part of their job, at least, where I work it is.

Failing that see if there are other project postings within your company, I don't know about you but we have an internal job board for projects that need more people to work on, you could always see if you have one of these and see if you are needed elsewhere, or see if you can find the opportunity to learn new skills on there too.

Gaining Trust

Of course, the above approach is only useful in the short run, once that job runs out you are back to square one.

So step two is to gain trust. Once you have demonstrated to your team that you know what you are doing and that you have the needed skills then they will begin to trust you more.

Once they trust you more they will be more comfortable with giving you important tasks for you to carry out, but until then you will need to be patient, gain skills, gain experience, even if this means self teaching yourself the complex system, and eventually the trust will grow.

But how do I grow trust?

Trust is a difficult thing to cultivate between team members, especially in high pace scenarios, but there can be a few good points to follow to try to gain this trust.

  • Provide solutions
  • Meet Deadlines
  • Talk to your team
  • Take an interest

Provide Solutions

What I mean by this is, attend the meetings, learn about the problems that your team are facing, think of solutions and share your ideas. If you can built a reputation as someone who is able to help find solutions then you will gain trust.

Meet deadlines

This one is more difficult as there are a lot of outside factors that affect this other than just yourself. Meet deadlines, getting a reputation as someone who is consistently delivering late is never good for your career.

Talk to your team & Take an interest

Sometimes just taking 5 minutes to talk with your team, get to know them better, meet up for lunch etc can help build external trust, those extra friendships help bridge the gap between co-worker and co-worker i would trust with an issue

Take an interest in their problems, see if you can help. No one likes being stuck on an issue.

However, remember boundaries. Don't consistently leave your desk, badger your team mates or appear to be avoiding work, this will build you the wrong kind of reputation.

Work hard

When you have your issues and your jobs, work hard and appear responsible. No body would want to give an important task to someone who appears lazy and reckless.

I hope this helps you figure out a way to get more work through building trust in your team!

  • Our team lead decided we should work together on a certain feature. I didn't mention that in my question, I will update it. – Uooo Apr 17 '13 at 8:49
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    @w4rumy I suggest talking to your team lead still, as he is currently in charge of your time – Rhys Apr 17 '13 at 8:53
  • @w4rumy, even if he wants you to work together, he needs to be aware that your teammates are not giving up their hold on the work to you. It is his job to fix this. If you don't let him know you are trying to contribute but not getting anything, he will think you are a slacker. – HLGEM Apr 17 '13 at 16:52
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I wasn't assigned work for nearly 3 months, but I didn't sit idle. I did learn new things. I had a web developer position. So I started learning related things such as PHP, JavaScript and HTML and related stuffs.

This research and learning prepared me better for my future assignments. I used to complete projects quickly without problems. This brings some confidence to our superiors in our abilities.

I said this because if you are not getting assigned with any work as @RhysW's answer you will have a superior or superiors ask them and still if you didn't get then start learning about the things that are relevant to the software development of your company.

Think of this time as precious. If someone is preparing something for you then wait till they are ready to hand it over. Wait in the sense that you should learn something. But ask them very politely with some intervals but don't make them feel bad.

If some one says You could do thi... oh, no, you can't, something is broken there, I have to fix it first! it implies that they don't know that you can fix those or you might not be able to. Again use this situation wisely. If you can fix this issue then tell them you can fix it.

Hmmm no currently not... again you don't have any choice as they don't have anything to offer you.

But once you have gained knowledge and if you prove it to them then it makes it easier to get more work. Don't just think of working independently. Team work is highly valued. When you work in a team you can learn and share different ways of solving problems. Some might be simple and some might be efficient. By this you can gain some knowledge on programming efficiently. Everything happens for good or else make them serve you good. That is what I think. hope this helps.

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A few weeks later, I finished my tasks, and since then I am asking every day what I should do next

This statement doesn't really match:

I also usually prefer to work indepentently

So, start being independent. Some suggestions:

  • Find out where your database of bugs is and start fixing them. If you don't have one, create one and start populating it
  • Determine where things are documented (whether supporting documents or actual code commenting) and start improving these
  • Spend time reading the existing documentation or company material to better understand how your work fits into a greater whole
  • Find something obnoxious which is "part of life" for yourself or your team and automate it. For software, is it annoying to build the software? What about configuration, is this annoying every time to install it? Write script(s) to make these things easier and more automated.
  • Do people actively test your software? Do testing of some sort

Make sure to get confirmation these are wanted by your team, by the way (see below).

I am tired of sitting around the whole day without anything to do, begging for tasks and not getting any. How can I improve this situation?

Honestly, that's annoying for most people. Creating a task of some sort which can be delegated is a lot of work much of the time. In some cases it may actually be more work to define and explain work than to just do it.

You should present something to your peers/managers, "hey, I've not got a lot to do recently, I'm thinking about doing (this) because I don't have a whole lot going on - does this sound good?"

Make it easier on people by doing the hard part (defining the work) yourself. An added benefit is you can focus on things which are interesting to you.

-1

I have been in such situations. If you feel you're up against a wall, why not try and make your own work? Maybe they are testing your initiative - want to see if you're 'self-starter' etc.

Examine the code/project you're working on. Think about ways to improve it. Or ways to improve their process, or a utility or tool that you think might be helpful. When you've got an idea, go to your manager and talk to them about it - obviously in an appropriate way. They may be waiting for just that.

Another thing to do is go over the job description and what you were told when you first started working. Then ask your manager: 'The job description spoke about A, B, C, etc. . How do they fit into the job - meanwhile I haven't been asked to do anything regarding them. Etc.'

Point is - don't sit around and wait to be TOLD what to do. Take the initiative - market yourself - promote yourself (in a discreet way of course) - no one else is going to do it for you!

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