There is an unfortunate perception among many people that equates asking for help with failure or weakness. I definitely fall prey to this kind of thinking; in fact, I go out of my way not to ask for help, perhaps to a fault. It’s easy to think of this reluctance to reach out as determination when in some cases it’s hurting more that it is helping.
Particularly as interns, we might feel the need to prove ourselves by accepting every task and showing we can step up to any challenge, and it can be hard to admit when we need help with something.
Last week at my internship, I found myself with an unmanageable workload near the end of the week, and with a pit in my stomach, I explained the situation to my supervisors and asked them if they could help me prioritize the tasks on my list.
The result was that they were able to give me great advice on how to attack all the work I had to do, easing my stress about the situation and allowing me to get things done more easily. The experience really proved to me that asking for help can in fact be a strength—not a weakness.
One of the most important parts of an internship should be the things you are learning, and one of the most important parts of learning is asking questions. Your superiors want to help you learn and succeed and will likely be happy to talk with you if you ask for help, provided it’s done in the right way.
The trick is knowing when and how to ask. Here is a helpful guide for those of us who may be a little shy about asking for help:
Asking for Help at Work Self Assessment
1. Have I tried to figure it out myself?
2. Seriously, have I exhausted all my options?
3. One more time. Did I Google it?
4. Have I prepared a list of possible solutions to contribute?
5. Is now a convenient time for the person I am asking?
6. Did I take a few deep breaths and calm down about the problem?
Congratulations! If you answered YES to all of the questions above, you may be ready to ask for help at work. Trust me, it’s not the end of the world.