You’re moving up in your career. More people than ever before are leaning on you for answers. That feels pretty great, right? It should!
But at the same time, does it make you nervous to ask for help? More specifically, do you get skittish about asking someone to check your work because you’re supposed to be beyond that? If so, that’s a totally normal feeling. But also one you should get out of your system.
Because no matter high up the ladder you get, there’ll always be times when smart people know they need a second pair of eyes on their work.
Here are a few examples:
1. You’re Sending Personalized, Confidential Emails to Multiple Clients
This might seem like Career 101 to you. I mean, you know how to send an email, right? Of course you do. But some are tougher than others to write—especially when you have to attach confidential information. And when you have send it to multiple clients.
In a previous job, I was responsible for handling end-of-month billing reports for a long list of clients. If I had sent the wrong documents to the wrong client, I would’ve been in hot water. So, my boss and I agreed that it made sense for her to check each one before I sent them. Sound silly? I thought so, too.
But two years and zero mistakes later, I wouldn’t have done it any differently.
2. You’re Sending a Very Important Email
You’re probably thinking, “Again with the emails?” You wouldn’t be in the position you’re in if you couldn’t craft a solid message to a teammate. Or a client. Or your mother. But again, some are more important than others. And in lots of cases, you’d look way less organized if you forgot a detail or struck the wrong tone and had to send a follow-up to correct your mistake.
Here’s a rule of thumb I swear by: If an email’s going to someone important (as in, the wrong message could really backfire on you or your company), ask a colleague to take a quick look. She’ll confirm if you’ve covered everything you want to say, and if you’re saying it right.
3. Your Project Has a Lot of Little Steps
You might be working on a long presentation. Or maybe you have to put together a detailed report for a client. Or you need to submit a formal plan to your boss before a product launch. Some things at work have a lot of details. And as awesome as you are, it’s actually smart of you to ask someone to look over the work you’ve done in these cases.
But, make it easier for those people to help you out. Don’t just show them the “finished” project and ask for general feedback. Send the list of requirements you had for the task, including any goals you discussed when you first start.
This will make it easier for them to cross-check what you’ve done well, and what they think you should take another stab at.
4. You’ve Made Mistakes on Similar Tasks in the Past
Hey, mistakes happen. And even when you have the best intentions, sometimes those mistakes happen again. For me, I’m really bad at reading and interpreting spreadsheets, which has resulted in quite a few mishaps.
Since I’m a professional writer, this might not sound like a big deal. But a lot of what I do at work involves interpreting spreadsheets—so I now know that I need someone to let me know if I’ve read the information correctly.
Smart people don’t just admit they’ve made mistakes. They know that the first step to correcting them is asking someone for help so it doesn’t happen again. So instead of keeping it to yourself and “figuring it out,” don’t be afraid to speak up and have someone double-check your work (at least until you’re confident again).
5. You’re Out of Your Comfort Zone
A lot of people I know are really good at learning on the job. How do they do it? First, they take things on that are outside of their comfort zone. And when they do, they ask for lots and lots of help along the way.
Maybe you’re a marketing person who’s managing budgets for the first time. Or maybe you’re in sales and your boss is asking you to write reports that affect your entire team. If you’re being trusted with something outside of your job description, do two things. First, pat yourself on the back. Then, find someone with more experience and ask that person to take an editor’s pen to whatever you’ve done.
You might feel uncomfortable asking for so much help. But it doesn’t have to be a one-way street. Offer to return the favor in the future, or buy them lunch, or thank them publicly.
In my previous job, I always used to send wrap-up emails that concluded with, “Huge shout out to my boss for reading over all those client emails!”
If you’re still worried about crossing a line, ask in advance! Most people won’t say no to a quick favor if it’s on their schedule (and not on your rushed one). Most importantly, switch who you ask from time to time. You’ll show them that you respect their time—and their feedback on your work.
And remember: Smart people get ahead because they aren’t afraid to ask for help.
Photo of co-workers speaking courtesy of Hoxton/Tom Merton/Getty Images.
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy or follow his blog.More from this Author