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I'm a web developer/designer. I was hired for a full-time, permanent position by a small company to help them design the interface of a web application.

However, after about 6 months, I am basically "finished". I've styled the application, re-did the company website, created marketing materials, logos, ect, ect.

I'm starting to feel nervous about my lack of work, as I believe I have scraped the bottom of the barrel, and I am nervous about telling them because I don't want to be fired unexpectedly. If there is more work in the future, it will come by slowly and would be more appropriate as contracts with an hourly rate.

What is appropriate to do at work when there is no work left to do? If I can't find another job, should I resign anyway? I took this job for the chance to build up my portfolio and hoped to stay for at least a year, but I can't really do much if there is no work left for me to do.

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What is appropriate to do at work when there is no work left to do?

It's appropriate to ask your boss what you should be doing.

It's extremely unlikely that your company hired you solely to do a 6-month project and nothing else. Otherwise, it would have made far more sense to hire a contractor.

Talk with your boss. Ask what you should be working on now that the web application interface is "done". Perhaps it's not as done as you believe. Perhaps there will be a version 2 coming. Perhaps there are other websites to be built, etc.

The only way you can know is to ask. Do it now.

If I can't find another job, should I resign anyway?

I would almost never advise someone to resign until they have a new job waiting for them.

First, it looks bad to a potential employer. Many hiring managers tend to favor people for whom work is important. Leaving without a new job waiting can send the message that you just don't care much about working.

Second, unless you don't need any money it can put a strain on your finances, forcing you to choose a less-than-optimal job just to make ends meet. If that becomes a habit, you can be viewed as a job-hopper and become that much less employable.

Far better to find your next job, get and accept an offer, and have a firm start date, then give your notice and leave.

I took this job for the chance to build up my portfolio and hoped to stay for at least a year, but I can't really do much if there is no work left for me to do.

If you don't ask, you can't know if there really is no work left for you to do, or if you just don't see the work that is there.

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    Even if there is no more work, it is better to let the boss lay you off. In some areas of the world, you get unemployment pay if involuntarily unemployed, but not for voluntary resignation. In any case, if you are honest with the boss about running out of work, and get fired as a result, you may get the benefit of the boss's professional network, and be a good prospect for rehire next time they have work you can do. – Patricia Shanahan Mar 2 '16 at 16:23
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    @PatriciaShanahan gaps in employment are never a good thing. Better to float the resume, pester the boss for more work, uspkill, and either climb up in the organization or move to another one than to have a gap. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Mar 2 '16 at 16:54
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    I was hired for a specific data entry project at my company and now I'm the lead programmer. There is always work to do. – Andrew Whatever Mar 2 '16 at 19:49
  • I know its hard to believe that there is not enough work for me to do, and I admit it is an unusual situation. The company right now is over-staffed. Me taking on new responsibilities would mean stepping on the toes of people who are already doing it and have many years experience in their particular field. Not that there isn't any work for me to do, just not enough to fill 8 hour days. – Niahc Mar 3 '16 at 16:03
  • I know I should talk to my boss, but I've avoided it because I don't want to draw attention to my lack of productivity. It's a bit of a tricky situation. I am not confident there is work that I have somehow missed and I don't want to get fired because they can't find more for me to do. I've been as creative as possible about finding work to do but I've steadily been able to think of fewer and fewer things to do. But I will do my best to extend my work at least until I find another job – Niahc Mar 3 '16 at 17:42
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My advice if you like the company:

  • create more work for yourself. Make what you have done better.

  • create better reporting around your sites and develop ways for your company to see these things.

  • branch out into other related areas of your company. Maybe they have an internal site that needs work. Maybe they don't have an internal site but need one to handle docs/knowledge base stuff.

  • automate human tasks or make human tasks more reportable and easier to do.

  • learn more dev skills to do simple programming and changes so that you can work some open source code into your company's workflow.

The point is if you are good web development and given that you seem to work quickly - there is always work to be done at any company. The next question you ask on here is "How do I help out another group at my company without stepping on toes?"

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What's better: Sitting around in an office, doing nothing, and getting paid, or sitting around at home, doing nothing, and not getting paid? If you prefer having no money then you should resign. If you prefer having money (as 99.9999% of people do), don't resign.

It seems what you want to do is premature. I could see you handing in your resignation, and your boss says "what a shame, we just decided to do three more projects that would have taken you a year, now we will have to find another developer, good bye".

Don't assume things. If your boss wants you to leave, he or she will tell you. If they don't tell you, they don't want you to leave. It's also better in many legal and financial ways if you are laid off instead of resigning. For example, if you resign you might not get unemployment benefits that you would get if you are laid off.

Meanwhile improve your position by finding other things that you could do that would be useful for the company. One would be improving the website, one would be finding other things that could be usefully added to the website. Find out how your company can extract more value from the site. Find out how customers use it and what stops them from giving money to your company, and remove those obstacles. If you do anything useful, tell everyone loudly about it so they know you are valuable.

Even if you are looking for a new job, that's much much easier when you are still employed. If a company could hire a person who says "I want a new position because my old one isn't challenging" and another who says "I need this job because I resigned and can't pay my bills", who do you think will be offered a better salary? The one who has a job already, obviously, because they need to offer enough to make them leave the previous company.

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Talk to your boss about taking on new projects and new responsibilities. Ask to cross-train and the possibility of becoming a backup to one of your coworkers. That way, whether you stay or leave, you're increasing your value as an employee and growing your skills as well.

It will demonstrate that you are a go-getter and that never looks bad.

As for things to do on work time, you could also research the industry you are working in, and modify the website based on any trends you see. You could look at competitor's websites and see if they have anything you may have missed.

You can research new web technologies and methodologies.

But never, EVER resign from a position without a solid offer in hand. It is a HUGE red flag, and as an interviewer, I would have some very tough questions to ask you after "Why did you leave your last employer?"

Tell me that you left because you were finished and resigned, I'd ask:

"Really, who maintains the website?" "Did you train your replacement?" "Why couldn't you find other opportunities within the company you left?"

And a few others based on your response.

  • Part of the problem is that I'm not sure the company would be willing to invest in me to do something other than what I was hired to do. They just finished hiring several new people to fill a lot of the roles that I might have been able to take on. They also contracted a marketing company that ended up re-doing a lot of my work and taking over tasks that used to be my job. Basically I'm afraid that it would be easier for the company to hire someone with experience rather than invest time into me to learn – Niahc Mar 2 '16 at 17:26
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    But they're still paying you? They're still providing you with a desk, a chair, and a computer connected to the interweb? Then you must have tacit approval to use that internet connection to learn all you can about whatever it is you want to when you're not doing work for the company. Definitely talk to the boss about new work, but don't waste time being nervous: learn. That's how you get ahead. And it's neither your fault nor your problem that your manager is not paying attention. – Nolo Problemo Mar 2 '16 at 17:41
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    @Niahc If that's the case, start floating your resume immediately, but still do as I recommended. You cannot lose by trying to be more productive and an asset to your company. It's a win-win for you. Learn whatever you can from your current position and ask your manager what other responsibilities you can take on. If he's unresponsive or resistant, then move on, but get another job, don't just resign. Davienothatguy good comment! – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Mar 2 '16 at 17:43
  • I guess if I find something productive to do at work, I don't have to feel bad about it. They might choose not to use anything I make or learn, but I would still be working. It would probably be enough to pass the time till I can find something new at least. – Niahc Mar 2 '16 at 18:02
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    @Niahac I've been in the same position, never miss an opportunity to expand your learning and experience. It's a good habit to get into – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Mar 2 '16 at 19:32

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