Thursday, May 13, 2010

How to Fill Up Those Unassigned Hours


“What do I do with my unassigned hours?”

I often heard the above question when I was still working in an accounting firm. Juniors who have nothing to do always approach me asking how they can address this or if I can get them on my team just so they have something to do.

If you have unassigned hours, you can do some (or all) of the things I wrote in my previous post: How to Maximize Your (Unassigned) Time After the Busy Season.

“I already did all of them yet I am still unassigned, what do I do?”

Okay, okay, I hear you. Hmmmm, so what do you do? How about trying one (or, again, all) of the following?

Go Hound Your Scheduler. Chances are your firm will have one or several schedulers who are in charge of arranging your schedules. If there’s no one ‘over-all’ scheduler for the firm (or the office), there should be people who are responsible for scheduling the work. Your scheduler is in the best position to know of a team or teams who are in dire need of juniors to work with them. So go hound one or two of them to give you an assignment during this time. But please, don’t be confrontational about this (although I never heard of a junior doing this but who knows, there’s always a first time for everything). Ask them in a nice, calm way.

When I was still a junior, I would email our scheduler a week or a couple of days before my ‘unassigned’ days to tell him / her of my ‘availability’. Usually, my ‘available’ hours became assigned hours within a day or two. So, believe me, it pays to drop a note to your scheduler.

Go Tell Somebody. Don’t be ashamed to admit that you are unassigned. It’s a common enough phenomenon in an accounting firm. If somebody asked you about your assignment, tell them honestly that you are not assigned anywhere at the moment. Who knows? That somebody might actually know of a manager or a senior who is looking for a junior. Better yet, that somebody might actually be looking for one.

Go and Keep Your Ears on the Ground. Meaning? Keep your eyes and ears open for any team or job looking for a junior. And when you do hear of one, gather your courage and approach the senior or manager – in – charge. It doesn’t hurt to be a little (okay, sometimes a lot) aggressive during these times.

Go and Re - establish Old Networks. Ask your manager or senior from your previous assignment if they are still looking for a junior. Or if they know of anybody who is looking for one. Networking is not only for outside your firm, it should also be done inside your firm so make sure you stay in contact with all the people you worked with in your previous assignments.

Once you get your next assignment, it doesn’t end there. Getting an assignment is just half the battle.

The other half? Putting your best foot forward and I really mean your best. Not your mediocre self or your old performance or even your good self, nothing but the best should do.

Doing your best - even if your assignment is just for a few hours, or a day or a few days, or even if it entails just vouching and footing and filing working papers - will guarantee your next assignment, and the next, and the next...you get what I mean?

And if you still doubt me, why not check this post from Krupo? There are very good points to consider in this post.

Just a last note though. The first (and so far, the only) commenter in my previous post asked me this:

If you are allocated to a client in the schedule but there are delays, 
would you still charge your time to the client? Because you are not 
technically unassigned.

I know this is a little bit off topic, but next to being unassigned, I know this is also one of the major worries of juniors. So let me answer this the best that I can.

My answer? Technically, you should charge your time to the client because they are the ones causing the delay. But make sure that your manager and your partner are aware of this and that you can back this claim 100%. Your partner and manager will take note of this and meet with the client to request for an adjustment of the fees.

Now, if making an adjustment is not possible, make sure that your manager / partner and you have an understanding on how to deal with this delay in your time report. Do not just assume that you can charge everything or you can charge nothing to the client. At the end of everything, it is still your partner’s and your manager’s responsibilities to make sure you are utilized 100% in your assignment.

And that ends my post on unassigned hours. Good luck in getting your assignments!

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