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A group of us were forced to figure out how to perform a task with little to no instructions. The closest phrase I could come up with is "trial by fire", but this is for use in a cover letter for a job. Is there a less colloquial way to express this concept? "Learn on the job" came to mind, but we didn't really have a supervisor to go ask for help.

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    dive in head-first (or ... into the deep end). – Dan Bron Oct 3 '16 at 19:50
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    Colloquialisms are often used in English to describe unpleasant tasks. *Learning on the job" implies some level of supervision and may not be disagreeable. "Being thrown in at the deep end" implies that you are on your own and must either sink or swim. A "trial by fire" is obviously unpleasant. – Mick Oct 3 '16 at 20:05
  • How about "a self-starter" or "self-directed"? – BradC Oct 3 '16 at 20:09
  • @DanBron Surely it is usually expressed as being thrown in at the deep end isn't it? e.g. When I first started work here I was thrown in at the deep end. Or perhaps not in America? – WS2 Oct 3 '16 at 23:05
  • @WS2 Sure, why not? – Dan Bron Oct 3 '16 at 23:05
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Consider learn by doing

Definition: to gain knowledge of something or acquire skill through practice.

Example: No on-going training program has been developed and new staff are required to learn by doing.

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