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Marble Jar Gang Career Counseling: Special Projects; Working Without Compensation

The basic premise or formula is to recognize that when your skills + traits + behaviors are placed in the right environment the outcome will give you a greater chance of success and happiness in your work.

When you are asked by your manager to work on a ‘pop up’ special assignment you must believe that you are a star performer that has been singled out. Be appreciative of their belief in you and then ask some questions. We will get to those questions in a minute but first we want to discuss why you will want to jump at this opportunity to contribute at a higher level. This project is a way to learn, grow in your skills, connect with people you haven’t worked with before and get recognized for your valued work in something the company feels is important.

Notice we did not say this is a way to make more money. Special projects are not a mercenary event and if you are offered some compensation, great, but do not ask about money. Ask about these things:

· Define the project in scope, length, desired outcomes and company backing. Is this a companywide initiative or for a single department? How long is it anticipated to be underway? Is this instead of something you are working on or in addition to? Is there funding for the project’s needs?

· Who is on the team and who would you report to? Why did they think of you? This is key to the success of the assignment as the project manager and the assembled team should give you a measure of comfort that you will all work together and you bring something special to the assignment.

· Is it in your managers opinion that the project has adequate support and planning, giving it a greater chance of success? Some projects will fail and that shouldn’t be a reason to decline the opportunity as it can be a uniquely valuable lesson. But ask the question to gain insight as more projects fail due to poor planning, inadequate management and poorly defined goals.

If you are comfortable with your answers then jump at the opportunity. If there are a few things that need to be cleared up and you want 24 hours to think on it, ask if that’s possible.

At MJG we have all worked special projects. Some of them became so important and we look back at them and underscore the word SPECIAL. Jump in where others are afraid to tread and help start a movement in your company that can change the way they do business, establish a different trajectory in your own career and possibly define a new idea that changes an industry.

Your homework this week is not to wait for a special assignment to come your way but to consider what you see as a ‘need’ in the company and strategize this to present to your boss as your own project. Ask yourself the same things in the bullet points, from a different perspective, and propose it to your manager. Big marble in your jar.

For a deeper dive into what a special projects manager does check out this link:

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