I’ve been working on a pretty big project — a book — for going on eight months. This week, I got word that the project had been scrapped, at least as far as the publisher was concerned. It was a pretty big let down for me: we were only about two months away from the end of the project. Since I’ve gotten word, I’ve been working through everything from shock at the news to anger at some of the other people involved. When you’re emotionally attached to a project — which can happen just because of the sheer amount of time you’ve been working on something — hearing about its cancellation can take it out of you. You get knocked down; it’s important to get back up again and keep moving forward.
1. Find Out The Whys
It’s not unusual to be shocked, or even have a little bit of denial, when something happens to a project you’ve worked hard on. In many cases, you’ll probably get advice to just move on and get past it — but there are plenty of reasons to actually find out a little more about the circumstances. At the bare minimum, you’ll want to be able to avoid similar issues in the future. Such information can make the situation a little more painful in the short run, but I’ve found that if I know what happened, I get a little more closure with the whole situation. Don’t assign blame, though: even when one person was clearly at fault, you’ve got better things to do than focus on that.
2. Resolve and Repurpose The Project
Just because you’ve received word that a project has gotten axed doesn’t mean that you simply walk away from it. Assuming that you’re a principal in the project — that you have control over the information and resources of the project — you may be able to reuse at least certain elements of the project towards your future efforts. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to turn around and repackage the project for another client entirely. If you don’t control the project, you’ll still need to shut down the project, box up files and so on. Even if it seems like there’s no point to doing so, it’s worthwhile so that if you can restart the project or reuse a part of it sometime down the road, you can do so easily.
3. Profit From Your Time
If the project really did go very wrong, you may find that your expected payment isn’t forthcoming. That sort of situation makes it particularly important to repurpose your work. However, there are certain ways to profit from your experience on a given project, despite an unfortunate ending. You can update your resume or portfolio in light of what you work you’ve done, take a look at how the project has expanded your network and even wind up with the leftover resources from the project. Taking a look at these opportunities can be a way to keep your mind on the bright side when thinking about what happened. You should expand on what you have, if possible. Maybe you can pick up a letter of reference or get an introduction for another project.
4. Check Your Reputation
You may not be able to come out of a failed project smelling like roses. Depending on the environment you work in, a big cancellation may become part of your reputation. With the number of people looking out for themselves in some industries, there may be a few people that decide to cover their out responsibilities by placing the blame on you. Complaining or justifying your actions won’t really help in such a situation. The best option is generally to find opportunities to prove such rumors wrong. Even if you aren’t going to start looking for a big project immediately, taking care of small projects or tasks well can go a long way towards reminding people of your skills and willingness to work hard.
5. Gear Up For The Next Project
No matter how big this project was, it’s unlikely that it’ll be your last project of all time. Instead, you’ve got plenty more to look forward to both in your professional and personal life. You may as well start getting ready for the next one: that can include going out and finding another project. Even if you don’t take on another big project for your work immediately, it may be worth actually seeking out something — it’s just like getting back on the horse after a fall. Taking on a big even at your church or planning a new project around one of your hobbies can help you get past a disappointment, but there’s not a limit on the types of projects that can help you get back into your groove. In fact, deviating from the normal types of projects you find can help you move past a less-than-ideal situation much faster.
Sometimes you can find yourself in the middle of a disappointing project — one that simply gets canceled. Even projects that look pretty good from your view point can get cut. But that doesn’t mean you have to let the situation turn into your personal bridge to nowhere. No matter how much time, effort or even emotion you have invested in the project, take the steps necessary to move on and move towards better and lasting projects.