How Asking for Help the Right Way Advances Your Career

There is a common misconception that asking for help is a sign of weakness. However, if you shift your mindset, you can see asking for help as a sign of strength. When President Obama spoke to students in 2009 he said, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new.” Because I don’t have President Obama on speed dial, I turned to some successful women to find out the best way to ask for help and how it can advance your career.

How Asking For Help The Right Way Advances Your Career

Know your strengths and weaknesses.

According to a recent Gallup study, people who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged on the job, leading to a positive impact on performance, productivity, and profitability. Tallia Deljou, co-founder and president of the career advice and lifestyle site, Mavenly and Co., explains that knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses can serve as a guide for when to ask for help. “By being self-aware and knowing your own strengths, you can more easily turn to people to get things done that aren’t your natural strengths. In this way, it’s to your personal benefit to delegate or seek out support to get things done efficiently and effectively,” she notes.

Alyssa Rapp, managing partner of AJR Ventures, recommends increasing self-awareness by asking for honest and direct feedback. Rapp commends one of her colleagues for asking for a 360-review because, “It was a terrific way to ask for an honest assessment of strengths and weaknesses while paving the path to ask for help to bolster weaknesses and achieve future career goals.”

Work independently before asking for help.

Deljou suggests working toward a solution before looking for guidance. “Although many of us think asking for help makes us look weak or incompetent, the reality is that it can make you look good as long as you show that you’ve attempted to resolve your own challenges first,” she says. Deljou proposes starting the conversation by explaining your potential solutions. “In this way, you are signaling your competence and commitment to achieving success, and that you’ve done some prep-work beforehand.”

Be specific and strategic. 

Ask targeted questions that will allow you to set your strategy. “Questions that are too open-ended will rarely net you ideas for specific actions and could cause you to appear unfocused. Questions that cause managers to think will not only lead to great insight but will position you as someone driven to contribute and succeed,” says Helene Lollis, president and CEO of Pathbuilders.

Ask for help early instead of waiting until the eleventh hour. “My best advice is to remember that asking someone you trust for advice is not a sign of weakness or lack of ability to do the job – it shows that you’re smart enough to not let the situation get out of control before asking for help,” notes Judy Cascapera, chief people officer at Nestlé USA.

Develop authentic relationships with colleagues.

Asking for help at work can lead to stronger relationships with your coworkers. “The best way to get help when you need it at work – and to live up to your full potential – is by developing real, deep, authentic relationships,” mentions Vildan Kehr, divisional vice president of talent acquisition at Abbott. She cautions asking people to make decisions or solve problems for you because it is likely to hinder your credibility over time. “Give some thought to the situation at hand and engage others to help you find the right way to solve the issue,” she advises.

Create a group of trusted mentors and advisors.

Jennifer McCloskey and Sahili Sheth, co-founders of The Considered Collection, explain that asking for help is advantageous for both parties. “If you are ever hesitant to ask for help thinking it might make you seem weak or unknowledgeable, just try shifting your perception. Remember that when you ask for support, others are able to share their expertise, gifts, and talents with you, thereby empowering them,” they say. “It is also a wonderful opportunity to open the doors to finding a mentor who is eager to help on an ongoing basis and share their knowledge with you, and whose career path you can learn from and emulate. A win-win for all.”

Liz Wessel, co-founder and CEO of WayUp, mentions that one of the company’s core values is: “Be a master of your craft, but know that you’re not THE master.” Wessel explains that she strives to follow this adage by surrounding herself with a core group of mentors and advisors that are experts in certain fields and skills.

Asking for help the right way can be a catalyst for continuous personal and professional development.

I originally wrote this post for Forbes. Image via The Everygirl.

21 Responses to How Asking for Help the Right Way Advances Your Career

  1. Being specific is so important! This conversation is not when you want to be vague 🙂 Love your advice!

  2. Shane says:

    I used to be so afraid of appearing week but you are so right. It’s a sign of stringent to admit you need help!

  3. Anna says:

    So many people are afraid of asking for help at work, but you made great points on the advantages of doing so!
    -Anna |

  4. Cristina says:

    I’ve always been a firm believer in asking for help! It always ends up getting me closer towards my goals.

    Cristina /

  5. Ashley says:

    So important!! These are great words of wisdom!!

    xo Ashley

  6. Amy says:

    This is so helpful! It’s taken me a while to get use to asking for help just because I’m afraid to look stupid, etc.
    Amy | Pastel N Pink

  7. Greta says:

    Great advice! I’m trying to be better at asking for help. Thanks for sharing!

    Greta |

  8. Authentic relationships are so important because that is how you establish trust and then will feel confident in asking for help.

  9. Annaliese says:

    I have always been someone who is very naturally curious both academically and in work settings- but this post was so great to try and learn more about what types of questions I should be asking!

    xoxo A

  10. Great tips! Building relationships and genuinely trying on your own are so important!


  11. Lily says:

    This is so so so good. Building relationships are everything!

  12. Michaela says:

    I like to try do everything myself, so I struggle to ask for help

  13. You gave such great tips! Trying on your own before asking for help is so important — it shows that you tried and put in effort!

  14. Morgan says:

    Asking questions is far from a weakness .. I think it shows great initiative .. Love the quote you referenced!

    How 2 Wear It []

  15. Kristin says:

    Great tips! As a recent college grad I love reading these posts!

    The Blush Blonde

  16. I really like these tips. Far too often, people are hesitant to ask for help with their careers.
    XO Amanda |

  17. These are great tips! I’m graduating in December and on the hunt for a job, so these are great to read

  18. McKenna Bleu says:

    Loving this post, such great tips!

  19. Good points! If someone asks for help it doesn’t mean that he/she is weak, it’s good to take help whenever it is needed. I would suggest that if someone doesn’t feel good about asking things from others than he/she can take help from Google as it will never make you feel bad about anything.

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