Here is a bizarre situation I am in. I hold advanced technical degree, recognized as a talented person. So far, all I did is research, and then decided to enter the industry.

A company hired me after grilling interview. I did well. I could answer most of the questions, and although the technology they are using is not something I have used ever before, I knew basics pretty well, and got through. However, I was expecting to also work in design / analysis stuff apart from this technology.

Now they assigned me an independent project where I am not able to meet my ends by getting the right output. I mean, I am close, but I am not getting there in spite of trying for last few weeks when an expert / experienced person can do this in about two weeks. I learned new stuff along the way, but not enough to produce results. And now I am wondering how to handle this.

I have pretty much given up on the project and have already missed a couple of deadlines.

What should I do in this situation - go and talk to my manager honestly that my expertise is not in this, and ask for something else? Or keep trying and miss another deadline - maybe get fired? I am stressed and ashamed at myself (Specially because of my degree which I am not able to justify) and I know that it's not helping!

  • 1
    There's nothing to be ashamed of in not being an immediate expert at a piece of technology you've never used before. Technical degrees rarely cover the specifics the tools you'll actually be using in practice. Keep learning, and eventually you'll get there.
    – aroth
    Aug 8, 2014 at 5:34
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    Hi newbie and welcome to The Workplace! Unfortunately, the question you asked is very similar to Got in over my head on a project, how do I tell my boss I can't do it anymore? and is likely to be closed as a duplicate. If that question does not address your specific scenario, please edit your question and explain how your situation is different. I hope to see you around! :D Aug 8, 2014 at 13:19

3 Answers 3


If you did not mislead anyone about your capabilities at the interview, don't be hard on yourself.

You company hired you not because you knew the stuff at the time but because you could eventually figure it out.

And figuring it out was what you were in the process of doing until you decided to give up.

I suggest that you quit your self-talk about not being able to hack it. You can hack it, it's just going to take more time than you and the company expected. But taking much more time is probably a lot better than not getting it done. Don't compare yourself to an experienced person, because you are not. This invidious comparison is part of your self-talk, and you are doing a fine job of demoralizing yourself. Just stop it - the self-talk, the self-condemnation, the self-flagellation, the self-whatever. All the self-hectoring in the world won't get you one step closer to finishing.

If your manager is asking why you are missing milestones, be blunt about saying that the learning curve is steep and brutal - which it is, and there are tons of things that you need to figure out.

If your manager is competent, then they should ask you what resources you need. First on your agenda should be the availability of someone to answer your questions as you go up the learning curve.

Since you already missed a couple of milestones, I suggest that you be pro-active and tell your manager that you are distressed over missing the milestones and that you could use having the support of someone senior to answer your questions. Be prepared to soldier on, with or without support. They have to expect that it's going to take you more time.

If your manager asks you how much more time you expect it's going to take you, give your best estimate. Then put that estimate into context by saying that with support, you'll be much more confident that your estimate is conservative. And your ability to beat your estimate is contingent on the level of expert support you receive.

The objective reason why you are missing the deadlines is the steepness and brutality of the learning curve, which the availability of expert support will go a long way to mitigate. Stay objective i.e. professional in describing your challenges.

Stay away from the subjective editorializing, which has nothing to do with helping you resolve your situation, adds nothing to your credibility as a competent professional - you HAVE to believe that you are a competent professional. because if you don't, why should your boss? - and is quite unfair to yourself. You need to like yourself enough to be fair to yourself.

No matter how much you kick yourself for being inefficient, bear in mind that you are the best person available for this project. You may not be the best person for the project but you are the best available person for the project. What they see is what they get. Focus on soldiering on, because that's the only way that this project is going to get done.

If it's any consolation to you, you'll be a lot more effective and efficient on the next go-round. I am confident of that, and so must you. In the meantime, bite the bullet and get on with this difficult business.


I am in a similar situation, thrown in the deep water in an area I have no prior experience. The only difference is I have a lot of work experience in other areas and I know that if I am stubborn enough I can do anything.

First - calm down and stop blaming yourself, there is nothing to be ashamed of. Break the project to smaller tasks, perhaps several levels of them. Write them down. Check what is already done, what needs some more work, and what is not done at all. You probably have an idea how to do some of the work, and probably you have no clue how to approach some of the tasks.

Go to your manager, show him your plan and ask what help is available for the things you have difficulties with. He might point you to some of your colleagues, who have experience in these particular areas. If nobody in the company has ever dealt with such things, search for possible solution yourself - maybe there are books, seminars, courses that might be useful for you. Told the manager about this options.

Don't give up the project and don't silently miss deadlines. Go and talk to the right people but prepare for the talk beforehand.


What should I do in this situation - go and talk to my manager honestly that my expertise is not in this, and ask for something else? Or keep trying and miss another deadline - maybe get fired?

You are close, but neither of these conclusions is optimal.

You should indeed go and talk with your manager right away. Explain the parts that you are struggling with, and ask for suggestions how to get past them.

Often, we assume that we must struggle through tasks on our own, and run into a roadblock when we encounter something unfamiliar or beyond our expertise. But very often, the projects don't really need to be completed in isolation. Sometimes a quick brainstorming session with a peer can get things unblocked. Perhaps a phone call with someone with more expertise can move the project along. Sometimes someone else can be added to the project for a short time. There are many, many possibilities.

Asking "for something else" signals your boss that you will give up whenever you hit a difficult patch. That's probably not what you intend to convey.

And continuing to miss deadlines (particularly when you suspect it might lead to being fired) isn't a good career move.

Talking it through with your boss is often the best solution. He/she wants you to succeed and is usually in a position to offer help toward that goal.

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