The Workplace

Asking for help

By Colleen Sabatino, The Intern Coach

Everyone finds they're in over their head at some point, even full-time employees. Whether it’s a regular job or an internship, a challenging experience will teach you new skills. Understandably, however, you feel uncomfortable admitting that you don’t know how to do your project or that you need help. Try the following tips to solve your problem:

  1. Most projects are team efforts. If you have other people working on the same project, ask them for help as soon you run into trouble. Or, if you have friends or fellow interns at the company, you might want to ask them for advice.
  2. For a better understanding of your project, do some research on it. Obtain some reports or documents that detail its history, goals, timeline, personnel etc. Once you see the big picture, your part of the project will make more sense to you. You may find it helpful to sit down with the project manager and find out more about your role.
  3. If your confusion stems from a lack of certain technical skills, you may be able to develop the necessary proficiency in a short time. You could also simply be experiencing stress at performing your assignment in a large project. Feeling overwhelmed can block your ability to move forward. Try doing one small step at a time in hopes that the next step will become clear as you move forward. Consider your project a giant puzzle and place one piece at a time.
  4. If none of the above tips works, you may have to be honest with yourself and admit that this project is not for you. Then, set up a meeting with your intern manager and explain your dilemma. Emphasize that you don’t want to hold your team back, and problem solve with your manager the best way to handle the situation.
  5. This same advice applies to a situation in which you really dislike your assignment although you understand how to do it. In either case, ask your internship manager if you have any other options. Your own time is valuable and should be spent in a positive manner. It’s probably that you’ll end up with a much better review and recommendation if you like your work and perform to the best of your ability.