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Sadia Islam
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I keep getting tasks that are above my skill level. How can I address this without coming accross as grossly incompetent?

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I’m 6 months into a new job that uses a technology I’ve had no experience in (but am trying really hard to learn). Often I get tasks that I have real difficulty with. I flag this: I say that I’ve never done that before and I’ll have difficulty. I get some help, but the task always takes way longer than estimated and is done pretty badly. This puts me under a huge amount of stress and is embarrassing as my tasks often get rejected at QA.

I’m all for learning but its just too much. I need to master things incrementally, not all at once. Or else do a proper course on the subject.

How can I talk to my boss about this without looking like I’m useless or backing away from challenges?

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  1. First, this answer hinges on the fact that you do mention to those who are assigning you tasks that you will have difficulty with them, and that this is accepted. Particularly in a junior role, even if only with a specific technology stack, that really should be accepted; nobody can expect someone who has only worked with a technology stack and a mass of source code for half a year to be as productive as someone who has been doing the same for years.

  2. A less confrontational way to address this is to ask your boss to help you understand why he thinks you can handle these tasks. The other part of this discyion is to help clarify expectations. Who knows, you may find that they really don’t expect you to handle this, but you’re there only hope at the moment. Do your best.

    Even if you were given tasks you can easily perform, you always want to know what is expected of you from your immediate supervisor. I always suggest focusing on meeting his expectations. It will make your job more successful in the short and long-term.

    Since you’re new to the job, there are many aspects I think you’re misunderstanding and putting too much pressure on yourself because so far, you’ve never mentioned anyone complaining or giving you negative feedback.

  3. Your boss probably knows that this is new tech for you, and that your results take longer and are less robust. As you say in your comment, the real experts are just too busy – you’re all he’s got. Thus, don’t assume that you are performing below expectations, because you’re not expected to have mastered the technology.

    Your boss might also think that the best way for you to master the technology is to dive head-first into it. A lot of people don’t realize that other people think differently, and learn differently! It’s up to you to let your boss know that you think a different way would be more effective.