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How to ask for help: Advice for college graduates entering the workforce

Justin Thompson, CareerBuilder Writer

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It's not uncommon for a college student, upon graduation, to think, "What now?" For the lucky ones who have jobs right out of the gate, the working world can be overwhelming, especially when projects are hurled at them at an unrelenting speed, with little to no direction.

Whether you're job-searching post-graduation or you've just started working, you're allowed to ask for help. While you may think it should be obvious to your manager or co-workers that you need direction, they may be so swamped that they don't recognize that you're struggling.

Here are some tips for getting up the courage to say that four-letter word, "Help":

Have humility
You may have talked the talk to get in the door, but even if you have the right qualifications, you still face a learning curve. This is especially true if you're fresh out of school. When you start a new job, no one expects you to know everything, so don't walk in the door assuming you do know everything. Pretending that you have the same level of expertise and knowledge as the CEO will only backfire. That kind of attitude won't make you any friends and could get you kicked out the door. Instead, be humble and accept your flaws as well as your strengths. Remember that they hired you for a reason.

Those who ask for help get it
The only way to learn and grow in your career is by being inquisitive. Even CEOs ask questions. Your boss would rather you ask questions and get the project right the first time, instead of going into a task with uncertainty.

Ask questions intelligently
A key to asking questions at work is to ask the right ones in the right way. Don't ask questions that require a yes or no response. Instead, ask your boss what her expectations are so you are sure to meet them. This also gives you an opportunity to ask your manager if she has a preference on how the task is accomplished or when it's due.

Another approach is to come to your boss with ideas or suggestions and ask if they are in line with what she is thinking. By positioning your questions in this way, you'll get input on your own ideas instead of asking your boss what to do. She'll appreciate your initiative.

Confide in others
"When in doubt, ask," says Lindsey Pollak, career expert and author of "Getting from College to Career." "This is a foolproof strategy for a young person who is new to the workforce, and it works for established professionals as well." She recommends asking trusted friends or advisers for input on how to handle certain workplace situations.

"During your career planning and job searching, there will be lots of decisions you can't make on your own, and situations in which you can't know the right answer without asking someone with more experience. Ask for help when you need it. We all need it sometimes."

Justin Thompson is a writer and blogger for and its job blog, The Work Buzz. He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

Last Updated: 27/03/2012 - 2:41 PM

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