How To Ask For Help In Your First Job

As a new developer, your first job can be overwhelming. You may be experiencing imposter syndrome, have doubts about your ability to complete tasks, and/or feel intimidated by the amount of work you need to do… you might even encounter tasks you don’t have any idea how to do! 

That’s okay! As a junior, you’re not expected to know everything, and your senior colleagues know that.  Asking for help can be challenging, but it’s necessary for your growth as a developer–if you spend most of your time spinning your wheels, you won’t move forward at the pace you need to.  In this article, I’ve listed my tips on how a junior developer can ask for help with tasks in their first job.

Identify The Problem

Before you ask for help, make sure you understand the task (or the part of the task) you are struggling with. Make sure that you have tried to solve the problem yourself, and that you can explain what you tried and why you tried it.  This will help you articulate your question(s), and show your colleagues that you’ve actually put effort into finding a solution before asking for assistance.

Choose The Right Time 

Avoid asking for help during meetings, or when your colleagues are heads-down with their own work.  Try to ask while your colleague is coming back from a break, or when they are not focused on a task.  If you can’t find anyone free to ask, send a short message asking them to help when they have some free time. 

Choose The Right Person

Consider who on your team has the best experience or expertise to help you.  It could be your manager, a more senior developer, or even a fellow junior who has already worked on the type of task that is causing you difficulty.  (Keep in mind that the most senior person in the room is not always the best person to help you!) 

Practice Active Listening

When someone is helping you, listen carefully and ask clarifying questions.  If you don’t understand something, say so!  It is much better to ask your colleague to word something in a different way or go over a topic again then it is to pretend that you understand, still be unable to complete the task, and need help again later.

Write It Down

Taking notes during a conversation will help you avoid asking the same question(s) again in the future. It will also demonstrate to your colleagues that you value their input, and are putting in the effort to learn from your mistakes.  As a bonus, your notes can serve as reference material in the future if someone comes to you for help with a similar task!   

Stay Positive

Try to avoid becoming defensive or blaming something or someone else for your problem, even if you are very frustrated (especially if you are very frustrated).  Remember that as a junior, your job is to learn and grow as a programmer.  When you do your best to stay positive, both you and the person helping you will have a better time figuring out how to solve your problem. 

Say Thank You

When someone helps you, thank them for their time and effort.  If a colleague has helped you out multiple times, thank them publicly and let them know how their assistance has helped you accomplish the task(s) you were struggling with.  Recognizing their help can help in forming positive work relationships with your colleagues.

Learn From Your Mistakes

If you do encounter the same (or a similar) problem again, don’t hesitate to ask for help, but make sure you are actively listening, taking notes, and asking questions when you need to.  I’ve often said that I’m never annoyed the first time a junior asks me for help with something, and I’m understanding the second time–but if they have to ask me for help with the exact same issue three times, there’s a problem.

Asking for help is a common and necessary part of being a junior developer, no matter how tough it is to do! By following these tips, you can ask for help in a way that demonstrates your willingness to learn and your respect for your colleagues’ time and expertise.  Remember, asking for help is not a sign of weakness–it’s a sign of your willingness to learn. Asking for help shows that you are proactive in growing as a developer and improving your skills!

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