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Almost 2 months ago I started a new (data scientist) job. I was assigned to a team that has not used machine learning before. They have assigned me a wretchedly difficult project that I'm simply not enjoying. There is a second team in the company's analytics arm which is doing stuff that seems more routine, feasible, and interesting, and I would like to join the team. Actually, my interview for this position was with members of this team, and I took the position because the work they described seemed quite exciting. Unfortunately, when I showed up, they assigned me to a different team (the one I'm on now) with a lousy and monumentally challenging project. To their credit, they explained to my why they were assigning me to this team, because they really needed someone. They asked me whether I'd like to join, and my mistake was saying 'yes'. I should have put my foot down and asked to be assigned to the team I interviewed with, but first-day timidness took over.

On my current team, I've put a lot of effort into the project they assigned me but have made little progress in nearly 2 months. At this point, is is too late to ask to be moved to the other team? I don't want it to look like I simply gave up on this project because I failed at it, and now want to "try my luck" on another team. Is it worth trying to move to another job? I am worried that a 2-3 month job on my resume would not look good at all. Any advice from anyone who has gone through this would be much appreciated!!

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    Have you talked to your manager about this? If not, you should. – joeqwerty Jun 4 at 0:27
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    "I don't want it to look like I simply gave up on this project because I failed at it, and now want to "try my luck" on another team". It does look like that though. – PagMax Jun 4 at 9:03
  • What have you done to mitigate the challenges you're facing? Do you have any opportunities to get help, or explain the issues in a way that someone can help you make decisions about them? – dwizum Jun 4 at 13:40
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When you're struggling with a task at work the professional thing to do is make this visible and ask for help.

Your manager and team are there to support you, so if you need assistance, time, advice, or anything else then you should raise it as early as possible.

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What to do?

Your job. You practically volunteered for this job so at this point it's too late to go back without damaging your reputation at this workplace. As you said a 2-3 month job will look bad on your resume so your only other option is to take on this task head on and do your best.

Depending on what kind of personality your boss is (is he sales or engineering minded) it might be wise to be as transparent as you can. Be upfront about the complexities and difficulties of the task and manage his expectations. If you need help ask for it.

If you're not up for the job and don't think you can do it at all now is the time to do something about that. Either look for another job or speak to your boss and tell him you can't do this. But as I said there is a real possibility this will tarnish your reputation.

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    a 2-3 month job will look bad on your resume.. does it? I don't think so. May be if you have quite a lot of such (may be 3-4) it would look bad. But if it is just one, I don't think it would look bad at all.. – Romeo Sierra Jun 4 at 3:46
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    It wouldn't look good either. I have one on my resume and it always becomes a topic of conversation. – solarflare Jun 4 at 3:59
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    it probably comes down to explaining your skills (as shown by other projects) and the timeframe, facilities etc made available - there sre many reasons a project can be challenged. They may well ask as it shows your attitude much better than easy or completed projects... – Solar Mike Jun 4 at 4:41
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They asked me whether I'd like to join [this project], and my mistake was saying 'yes'.

This is the future you chose, sadly. Turn it into an opportunity to learn, even if that is:

  1. Don't be timid with work decisions

    Backpedaling decisions is very costly so don't let momentary pressure cause you to make a haphazard decision (including leaving the project!). It messes up the project management flow, your reputation as a reliable worker, among other annoying things.

  2. Know what you are jumping into before agreeing

    You'll never really be 100% sure how a job is gonna be even if you ask a hundred questions, however the immodesty of asking them all will not cast a shadow on the potential catastrophe that it can really be if you blindly sign up for things that you may not even be able to follow through.

If you are truly unable to complete this work on your own, you'll have to inform management about this. This actually constitutes getting work done, as you are not fit for the task and management can work with this to better filter assignments and personnel later.

Seconding other answers, ask for help as opposed to quitting. If quitting is an option, they'll let you know.

If the project is infamous and desperate for members as you claim, there's a reason for that. Saying how it was more than you could chew shouldn't hurt your reputation much (but it won't help either).

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This is the advice I was given in a training course: When given an impossible task...

Talk to your manager.

1) Understand the penalties for failing. Will you be fired? Or, no big deal, maybe they know it is a nearly impossible task and hope your team will get lucky with a breakthrough.

2) Ask for help.

3) Re-negotiate the terms. Is the deadline hard, or just a goal? Are all the requirements really necessary? They asked for ABC, but maybe A & B are good enough.

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