Assignment Paralysis- How the Heck do I Complete this Project?

I could smell the take-out breakfast, lunch and dinner that filled the trashcans of the Analyst Bullpen, a collection of cubicles I now called home. It was midnight and I was staring at a spreadsheet that hadn’t changed for at least an hour. I had no idea how to proceed and my Associate was expecting completed work in the morning. Anything I put down would be wrong. I couldn’t go home…that would also be wrong. I think I played solitaire… I’m pretty sure I prayed- and possibly promised never to have a tequila shot again… I know I dreamt about an accountant on a white horse galloping to my aid.

At the time of this particular career trauma, I had been working on Wall Street for two weeks. My class of graduates wasn’t offered the training classes that are now the norm for new finance professionals. But we did have a Bullpen Mom who watched over the new hires. Any time we had questions we could go to her for our on-the-job training. Armed with a semester of intro accounting, I managed the first few weeks without too much angst. My mistake that day was putting off an assignment until after the Bullpen Mom had left for the day. In fact, I didn’t start it until most everyone was gone and I was back from meeting a friend for dinner. The beginning of the project went fine. By the time I entered the danger zone, anyone I could call for help was asleep and I didn’t feel comfortable waking someone I barely knew.

The next sequence is a little fuzzy upon recollection, as all good divine interventions are. But, as I recall, Matt, a second-year Analyst, appeared out of nowhere. (Actually, he came from M&A, two floors down, and wandered by looking for leftover take-out.) He effortlessly showed me what to do. I was good to go in half an hour, spreadsheet complete.

That may have been a near-death experience in my eyes but it taught me an important lesson. I began to review my assignments right away and ask questions early. I also become friends with a few experienced second-year Analysts who wouldn’t mind a call from their desperate first-year friend.