Career Advice

I’ve been at my present job for just over a year now. I have been quite happy with the work environment and deadlines thus far. But I just was given notice to have 7 months worth of work to be completed in 4 months. It’s pretty much impossible.

I have 2 supervisors. Head supervisor and my design supervisor.
I have brought attention on two occasions to my design supervisor who doesn’t want to bring it up with head supervisor as they will freak out and wants to avoid that.

So I am basically looking at an extremely stressful life for the next 4 months that will end up in head supervisor freaking out anyways.

I designed this project from scratch and someone else could take it over potentially if I leave detailed enough drawings.

I am wanting to apply to a new job. If I was to take it. I’d be leaving this large project up in the air which I would feel terrible for doing. Also I can pretty much guarantee no references from this job. Also I would like to stay within the same industry and am worried about a bad word getting out in my name (head supervisor has connections).

Design is an ebb and flow type of a career. There are times when you’ll be at a point in a project that work is extremely light. And then there are the times you’ll spend weeks working 60-80 hours a week to try and kill yourself for a deadline.

It sounds like you’re approaching the second part. And trying to leave in the middle of it may not be a smart move. If you don’t land a new job then what?

I’ve been in situations that have been seemingly insurmountable, and how you resolve that is a question of your character. Leaving is an option, but a better option is to become a master of time management, understand what milestones and deadlines you would need to hit to get the work done in 4 months, and figure out ways to jettison work that may not be necessary, or convince management you need additional money to get more man power (consultants or interns) to help the work load.

If you get to the end of 4 months and you’ve gotten the project completed, you would probably be pretty happy with yourself, even if it means a lot of coffee and long nights - because it proved that it was not impossible. More importantly, it will be an impressive portfolio piece with an example of how you were able to take 7 months of work and do it in 4.

Based on what you’ve said about your boss having connections and this being a burnt bridge, it sounds to me like the answer is easy.

Stock up on Red Bull at BJ’s is my advice.

Definitally agree that design is ebb and flow.
And I also think that pushing through bottlenecks is generally good advice but there might be a risk of you become the “tight-deadline” guy.
For sure not a position you would want. If you decide to stay, it would be advisable to make very clear that this can’t be a common thing.
Managers love the option to promise tighter and faster deadlines as it makes clients and the higher ups happy. They look like managing geniuses as they can squeeze seemingly impossible work out of their soldiers.
In the long run this is horrible leadership however. You’re unhappy and you work ethic and eventually you work will suffer.

Personally I feel that 4 months sound like a pretty long time to be caffeinated.

What are the reasons why you can’t get support or an extended deadline? Is it the client? Budget?

The staff with the skills that can actually support me are also working on projects with the same deadline. Even though this would be the higher priority as we will be installing in a high traffic flow area. That’s why we have the deadline.

Even though with 4 people helping we could have the installs done in 1-2 over nights.

I’ve never actually been given any real reasons as the communication has been terrible. This deadline just came out of nowhere. There was never a discussion if the deadline was even borderline reasonable.

this sounds like the same environment where i work, can you ask to utilize outside support to meet the deadlines? do you have access to any budgetary money?

are you in house corporate or at a consultancy?

Your job as an employee then is to bubble up and make it very clear to your manager the concerns (and document them either via e-mail or some other means).

If you insist it can’t be done in that period of time, your options are go to to him with what you view as solutions.

Tell him that with X people or $X you can meet the deadline, without it you expect it to be done in 7 months. Or come up with unique solutions that might help expedite the process. For example “If we buy an off the shelf battery pack instead of designing our own we can save 3 weeks”…or “If we get rid of the waterfall and replace it with a projector and a piece of bent plastic to simulate flowing water we can save 2 weeks”.

Go in with solutions, not problems. It’s your managers job to make a decision on what to do if you tell him it can’t be done the way it’s currently planned and have an honest dialog about it. This has happened many times in my career and I’ve always handled it by saying “If you give me money to get a consultant for help I’ll offload the grunt work and focus on the key parts to moving the project quicker” and I’ve never had my requests turned down.

Communication is a 2 way street - no matter what you’re being held 50% responsible if communication isn’t working out well.

Decision making is left for management. If you come with a solution and they don’t accept it, it should ultimately be them held accountable when the time comes.

If none of that works then you’re in a toxic environment. In 4 months if you get let go for failing to hit the deadline and your manager blames you then take the severance and look for a different job.

If you hold yourself accountable and go to management with options and solutions, there should be no logical reasons why they turn you down.

I’m sorry for your situation, that’s inexcusable on your manager and his manager’s part. Not only should they articulate why the deadline was tightened, but why it was important for the company, them, and you. They should understand the crunch, empathize with their staff, and work with them to come up with a plan to achieve the goal together. If you have future leadership aspirations, take this as a lesson on how not to do things…

When I find myself in these situations I push back up, not to resist, but to discover more details, armed with that you can expedite criteria or find more creative solutions to accomplishing the project. Be inquisitive from the standpoint you are trying to learn more to put a plan together to achieve the goal. If the net result of the answers you receive leads you to believe it truly cannot be done, then communicate that message with options and solutions as Cyberdemon said.

If you get stone-walled in your attempts to do this, and more specifically if you are told to “just make it happen”, then bail once you find another opportunity, even if it is in the middle of the project. Bridges have 2 ends, sounds like the fire was lit on their end, it happens, you can choose not to refer colleagues to work for them, that is a two way street. If you’re early in your career don’t sweat it, but do exit professionally, and lean on your portfolio as it can prove to be your best reference.

Some good advice here, but some alternate food for thought.

Your managers are there to support you, but also to protect you. It could be the situation that there is some serious crunch coming from the client and they just need to perform the impossible. As a junior far down the ladder, you don’t and won’t know everything going on. You shouldn’t.

That being said, the manager should be supportive of your concerns and try to help alleviate stress and worry to make a positive work environment.

I just wanted to point out from a management POV that they may have a different perspective on the situation and it could be they are actually making it better, not worse and saving you from the worst of it while they deal with higher up issues.

Also keep in mind that as a junior with little experience, you might not know what is possible, work or deadline times. How often have you gone through similar projects?

Not blaming the victim/OP but giving another angle for consideration.


Absolutely - I think the main point is an open dialog with your manager should help to clarify things.

Imagine for a moment the company is doing poorly, this is a big client that they have to please, because it could mean the future of the business and all of your jobs. They may not have the money for more resources and they may not be able to re-route other people from projects since they need to close those deals as well. Ultimately it may be up to you to help deliver on that project and keep things moving forward, or you’ll all be out of jobs.

Your manager probably isn’t going to tell you that. It would create fear, rumors, doubt, and all kinds of other things that are bad for the business. But they should be able to try and figure out what can be done to make sure the work is finished on time, even if it’s dangling a carrot of promotion in your future.

Ultimately businesses are complex things, but starting the dialog will help.