Working Full Time? More Time for QT3!

So, for those of you who don’t know (I’ll assume that includes everyone), I officially joined the working world a couple of weeks ago. Oh sure, I’ve had numerous summer and part time jobs, but three weeks ago I got hired by a transportation consulting firm to work as a transportation analyst (the background of my recently procured degree is civil engineering). This is all well and good, as I like the office, the people and theoretically, the work. But this is where I run into a problem… a problem I never thought possible.

It seems that a lot of the people here (the whole company is like 40 people) are busy. They have a lot of work and stay in the office after 5. But most of them, including the woman who has been training me the last couple of weeks, seem to have no work to give me or any time to give me some idea/training on how to do it. So while there have been some days where I have had a bunch of work to do, there have been other really really long days where I’ve got nothing. And the worst part is, I have to account for how I spend all my time so a record can be kept of how much time I spend working on projects (presumably to bill the client later).

Ah well, I’m sure things will change eventually, and I’ll figure out how to use some of this computer software (that was designed in-house!). But for now, I may be forced to kill all kinds of time on here. I guess what I’m saying is, I see now how so many of you, you know, adults have thousands and thousands of posts on here. It’s not because you stay up all night posting (although who knows…) it’s because you are bored at work and finally… I can relate. Hooray for growing up.

This was Tom Cruise’s cover job in the last Mission Impossible movie!

Shhhhhh, don’t let out our secret.

Having said that, now I’m going to give you a piece of completely unsolicited career advice. You are in danger. If you are that idle as the new guy there’s a problem. And the problem, regardless of the real source, is most likely to be blamed squarely on you when it comes to light later.

In a perfect world you would be presented with a perfectly tailored course of training that would bring you up to maximum skill in your new duties in minimum time. Real companies don’t exist in the perfect world and real world managers are awful prone to ignoring new hires for months and then judging them as a dud later because they are untrained. Even though nobody gave them training.

If you are idle, be aggressive and maybe even a little obnoxious about finding things to do. Pester your manager with bright suggestions about what you could be doing. Ask for stupid make work. Take things on yourself or ask other people in your same department if there’s anything you could help with. Self study in your job roles (and even more importantly, also study the roles of any job you’d like to later be promoted to) whenever there’s an opportunity. Remember managers love employees with initiative because it lets them get away without having to do their job.

WorseThanFailure has some interesting stories about “idle work.” Of course, the fact that they’re on WTF is probably a warning sign…

I just use brief breaks while waiting for builds to finish.

I’ve been filling my time by practicing with and learning about the various bits of traffic analysing software we use here. And anytime someone comes with a job, I’m ready to do it and have done quite well in that regard. I do agree I could be more aggressive, I’m just saying there aren’t a lot of people to be aggressive too. The structure of this company is really small and they try to maintain a very non-hierarchial form of operation. So, there are principles, associates and then the general consulting staff, but they are all doing the same work.

I have this feeling I’m starting to sound hopelessly naive… thanks Nick… now you’ve got me worried! ;)

Yes, and there are MANY, MANY, bad managers out there. Because, especially in the software industry, nobody studies to become a manager and they are promoted out of the positions they are attempting to manage.

The mistake I see with a lot of managers is a failure to recognize talents that aren’t being utilized, being able to delegate work that they shouldn’t be doing themselves, managing expectations of upper management, fighting unrealistic schedules, getting more resources before they are desperately needed, etc etc.

Bottom line though, get busy or they will realize they maybe don’t need an extra hand.

There’s a lot of dead time in nearly every professional job. The object is to make yourself busy, i.e. identify opportunities, do the research, present a plan, then get shot down because management won’t pay for it. It’s a sink-or-swim enivironment, and while there’s always jobs for drones, superstars carve out work for themselves, while covering their responsibilities, and then ask for more.


I would just like to take this opportunity to recommend A GREAT series of podcasts for all kinds of managers on all kinds of subjects.


Well, here’s hoping you get rewarded for all that hard work, because otherwise the drone gets the same benefits for far less work.

I’m never taking public transit in Toronto ever again.

Or, oh shit, do you guys handle the roads and sky, too? Fuck.

Superstars generally do get rewarded. And happily for superstars it doesn’t take huge amounts of work to get superstar status, it only takes huge amounts of results. Anyone with experience in development or IT knows how efficiently someone really savvy can use their time. It’s all about great results for reasonable amounts of work baby!

Actually that got someone I know at a government job fired, though she got so desperate for something to actually do, she went to her boss’ boss and said, “They aren’t providing me with projects that I was hired to work on.” It’s probably going over her supervisors head that did her in, but it also may say something about government work. Either way, tread carefully.

Pretty sure Nick is talking about in the professional, capitalist world. Not the government or unions, in both of which looking for work could get you in trouble.

Sorry. My goal wasn’t to push anyone’s buttons.

Hey trom, we handle projects all over the place. I’ve been helping out a lot of that huge Pacific Mall shit show they are trying to get going up there. Two huge malls on either side of a street that also happens to be the dividing line between to cities. And both want to expand everywhich way. Its been interesting.

That area is a mess.

I’d disagree with the being in danger part, but not the pestering people for work part. Every time I see a new engineer starting, it usually takes some time to work them into a project. From the land development side of civil engineering, we usually teach the nubs the software they need to know as it comes up in a project that has a big fee. It is better to eat up some of that budget than have two people on overhead.

I agree, pester your boss for more work. “Can I help you with that?” “Are there any new projects I could get the ball started on?” “Do we need to follow up with any old clients?”

If your boss doesn’t have much, pester those around you in important positions as well (not the flunkie in the corner nobody works with.) Let your boss know they need some help and feel free to ask permission to do so. Managers have no problem with a hard charger who not only asks for work, but brings even more to the table by working with the whole team to get things done as well. What they don’t reward is the guy who sat in the cube for three weeks waiting for something to do.

So, OP, feeling nervous yet? Regretting your light-hearted comment? GET BACK TO WORK OR YOU WILL BE FIRED AND STARVE.

I had the “no work” problem for several months at a company I worked with. Sometimes, I had work, but it was poorly defined and came with no guidance or assistance (for an entry-level position). So I’d spin my wheels trying to figure out what to do next, and too confused to even know what kind of questions to ask, and of whom.

Eventually progress review time came around, and it was clear I’d done nothing. Bad Stuff happened: I was placed on some kind of probation, which actually meant that I got all the guidance and clear-cut goals, definitions, and deadlines that I’d been lacking. So things went really really well.

When the probationary period was over things went back to amorphous oblivion. Then I left.

But HR did get on my case about why I didn’t go stalk my manager outside the bathroom and so on to get my questions answered.