Everyone needs help sometimes.
Whether you're in a new job or honing a new skill, the worst thing you can do is refuse to ask for help when you don't know what you're doing. That said, there is a right and a wrong way to ask. The mark of a truly awful employee is when he simply says, "I don't know how to do this. I need help," about every task his boss assigns. Do this and you will both aggravate your boss and continue to be bad at your job. If you want to earn your boss's respect and learn how to do your job well, here is the right way to ask for help.
First, do as much as you can on your own
So you know how to create the spreadsheet your boss asked for but you don't know exactly how to structure it? Make a rough draft. It will be easier for your boss to show you what to change if you already have something done.
Figure out where you're having trouble
It's harder for someone to help you if you can't articulate where you need help. Show that spreadsheet you've drafted to your boss and explain, "This is just a rough draft. Is this the structure you wanted, and if not, how should I change it?" The more specific you can be with your questions, the better.
Bring solutions, not problems
The best way to ask for help and learn from it is to come up with your own solution -- then ask for confirmation that you're doing the right thing. Your boss will be happy because he has less thinking to do, and you'll also prove that you are capable of solving problems on your own.
Finally, when you ask for help, make a point of bringing your boss more than one question at a time. Try setting aside time each morning and afternoon to check in and bring whatever questions you have, rather than knocking on his door every few minutes with a new problem. Use these tips and you'll both impress your boss and master your job in no time.
Carissa Doshi is a business writer and the president of Gen Y Media Group. She gives career advice and blogs about her experiences on www.carissadoshi.com. You can also follow @CarissaDoshi on Twitter.