We have all been there. Maybe you just got given a task by your boss but you already forget one of the steps, or maybe you have to prioritize a list of projects and you aren’t sure which one to do first.
At this point in time, the true challenge of an internship appears: “should I ask my boss what to do, or am I being annoying and asking them too many questions?” The amount of times I have repeated this question in my head during the first two months of my Co-op term astounds me. I was so preoccupied with coming off as independent and reliable, that I would routinely avoid asking my manager clarification questions because I thought it made me look bad.
Worst. Decision. Of. My. Life.
Establish Effective Communication Methods With Your Manager
Luckily for myself, my manager made it clear on the first day that she would be here to support me and answer any questions I had. However, since this was my first corporate, professional job, I was very reserved for the first couple months and was too concerned with doing everything as best I could without asking for clarification.
Do not be like me. Asking for clarification along the way will prevent you from having to redo the entire thing once you realize you’ve missed a step. In addition to this, frequent communication with your boss will lead to a stronger, more supportive relationship.
Feeling Overwhelmed Isn’t Frowned Upon, Let Someone Know!
During the second month of my internship, we had one big event wrapping up and another large event going active. I was in charge of registration for the new event. During the two weeks leading up to the event date, countless unexpected software issues appeared and I was on support calls for two hours a day trying to resolve them while also dealing with people who were facing errors during their registration.
I felt helpless, I was falling further and further behind, and I hadn’t told my boss so she was still giving me more work. I buckled one night and sent her an email letting her know how overwhelmed I was feeling and the issues I was dealing with.
Best. Decision. Of. My. Life.
This was the switching point in my internship. My boss understood completely what I was going through, and helped me regain my footing. After seeing the benefits of building and making use of an effective communication/support system, I have made sure to never go back to my old ways.
Take This All With a Grain of Salt
I know I spent this entire article explaining to you all why you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions and look to your supervisor for support, but that isn’t to say that asking “too many questions” doesn’t exist. It most certainly does.
In order to make sure that you aren’t using my advice to bombard your boss with empty questions, here is a small checklist to go through before you ask your question:
Try not to repeat yourself: Think about the answer to your question, have you asked the same thing before? If you have asked it before and forgot the answer, try asking someone else before bothering your manager for a second time.
Use previous materials to answer your question: If you have a question and you remember seeing something about it previously, spend some time searching through your related materials. Sometimes you already have the answer, you just didn’t care to look for it.
Look for a time: Be aware of your boss’ schedule. Approach them at a time that won’t inconvenience them. This way you will not bother them, and you will get a more thoughtful answer. If the question is urgent and your boss is currently busy, send them a quick message asking if now is a good time.
There is such a thing as a ‘Stupid Question’: Repeat your own question in your head. Does it make sense? Is it important enough to bother your boss? Are you going to ask a question that could have easily been answered by yourself if you had just taken another 2 minutes to think on it?
One thing to take out of all of this: ASK QUESTIONS. Despite my warnings above, most people who are too timid to ask their boss questions are already going through this checklist 100 times in their heads. The reason they hesitate to ask is that they are overthinking the importance of their question.
Maybe this isn’t worth asking.
Wrong! It is worth asking and if you have put all this time and thought into your question, chances are it won’t be pointless. If you take time to think about your questions before you ask them, you should have no fear when approaching your boss. Remember, a good boss will be ready to support you through any concerns or troubles that you may come across.