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UK based recent graduate working in an moderately sized engineering company (~ Just over 1000 employees) for about 2 years.

I'm currently working in a technical role, on a long term project. Part of why I took the role on was that it has involved quite a bit of training​ to do similar projects in the future, so naturally it seemed like a good development opportunity.

However, about 9 months ago my technical supervisor went on long term sick leave. It's also not clear if he'll be able to return at all at this point, because of the nature of his illness. His responsibilities got split between myself, another colleague working in my area, and our project manager. I appreciate that these things happen, but, I feel as though the company is dragging it's heels in finding a replacement for him. Part of me thinks this is because there wasn't any planning for this kind of thing happening, but it's been so long now that I'm starting to think it's something else.

The person who left was very experienced in my field (25+ years experience). A lot of his role involved signing off on technical decisions, and checking work that I was doing. However, since he's left there's no one really to do this for me. I'm left more or less to get on and do things, without anyone overseeing my work; which makes me feel very uneasy given I'm still early in my career and I'm aware I can overlook things sometimes, plus there's no help available to me if I get stuck on a problem.

I've discussed this with my line manager several times, but I don't feel I can really get anything out of our conversations. He doesn't have the same technical background, and is not and to devote much time to help me (he is covering another role as well as his own). The last couple of times I spoke, he stated that this would only be for a bit, and the situation would improve - this was at the beginning of this year.

I appreciate that it could take a long time to hire someone with an equivalent level of experience. However, part of me feels the company is using this as a chance to recover some costs on our project and save money. I'm being told more and more of plans to do new work soon, yet there's no news from management on hiring additional staff.

Additionally, I'm increasingly being asked to make technical decisions which I don't feel I can answer properly, because I don't know enough. Similar to before, I've misjudged a couple of times after being instructed to make a decision, and I feel this has resulted in damaging relationships with our customer because it was incorrect.

Currently, I feel this is the start of a worrying trend and that I should begin looking elsewhere for jobs. Am I right to feel like this or have I missed something? I've asked my line manger what his opinion on my performance is and he's broadly stated that I'm doing fine; but he hasn't said this in an official performance review. I've not had one in over a year and have no performance objectives set. I'm starting to feel increasingly alienated from my work, my colleagues, and the company as a whole. Is this normal? Is there anything I can do to alleviate the situation, or is my best bet just to search for something new?

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    What about your colleague, how much experience does he have ? – Walfrat Apr 10 '17 at 7:27
  • I would say that that is your best bet, yes. – Teacher KSHuang Apr 10 '17 at 8:35
  • Colleague is in much the same position as myself unfortunately, not much experience in the field, getting asked to make similar decisions. I've asked for his advice but he hasn't offered much in the way of support – user68428 Apr 10 '17 at 9:47
  • Hit post too quickly! I also get the impression said colleague is demotivated and is thinking of leaving too. – user68428 Apr 10 '17 at 9:49
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I have seen this happen in the past. I would take a step back and look at the whole picture. Look at each problem you have and at the possible solutions, for example:

  1. Not qualified for certain decisions - formally request training and follow up regularly with solid examples backing up the need for this.
  2. Not getting feedback - formally request a performance review and follow up regularly.
  3. Concerned about ruining relationships with customers - thoroughly document reasons for your decisions.

In a funny way, having this 'thrown in the deep end' situation can be an excellent opportunity to learn and grow quickly. If they are forcing you into making critical decisions, then do so with confidence and document your reasoning so you are able to defend when needed.

That said, it would be a very good idea to update your resume and start looking at the market anyway. If another opportunity becomes available with great training actually included, then you have an out.

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Change the perspective.

I feel that you think you can't overcome the new responsibilities as you don't feel prepared for it given you made a mistake. But what did you learn from that mistake? Did your decision, in fact, damaged the relationships with customers? If yes, how? why? Because if you don't know how and why you will never improve as you don't understand why your "mistake" was actually a mistake.

So, take this as a very nice opportunity to learn. Personally, I would love to have a part of the responsibility of somebody in my field with +25 years of experience. Why? Because I would learn a lot. I would have to study as crazy, but that opportunity is unique and I would take advantage of it as much as I could.

Finally, I think the question you have to ask yourself is: Do you want to learn, or you just want to do a good work? If you want to learn, you will have to take the risk of failing. If you just want to do a good work just tell your project manager you can't deal with the new responsibility as you don't feel prepared for it, but you can do a very good work in what you are good. In the worst case, for both, you will be fired.

If you choose to learn, the three steps from Andrew are a good start.

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