Ask For Help

Asking for help is a foundational lesson to learn in academia. You did not get through life and into academia without any help, so do not think that you can get through the rest of the jourvey without help. This is something that I learned during my first year while working on a research project. After starting off well, I eventually got to a point where I was stuck and did not know how to figure out some parts of my analysis. Even though I clearly needed help, I did not ask for it. Instead, I let a lot ofimposteristic automatic thoughts such as “If I ask for help my advisor willregret accepting me in the to the program,” or “I'm in a doctoral program now,I should be able to figure this out all by myself.” It took three months of noprogress to finally ask my advisor for help. When we met, he was able to answermy question within 10 minutes, and from there, I was able to complete myproject within the next two months. Please learn from my mistakes and know thatyou need to ask for help! You will not be successful if you try to rely 100% onyourself. It is especially easy in academia to think that you have to do everything on your own and that you're supposed to know everything. That is not why you are here. You are there to learn to grow, and part of that is asking for help. This is particularly the case for BIPOC students and professionals who may internalize a lot of the negative stereotypes about their identities and let that keep them from asking for help. There is no shame in asking for help. It shows courage and humility that you are willing to admit you do not know something. I know it can be difficult, but an excellent way to start is by using your resources such as looking things up on the internet, turning to your textbooks, or using consulting services at your university. If you cannot figure out what you need from those sources, then it's a good idea to turn to someone (advisor, mentor, peer) and explain to them what the issue is as well as the different ways you've already tried to solve the issue. Again, I cannot stress this enough: asking for help has saved me so much time and made me productive and successful. In fact, during our program’s annual review, my advisor highlighted asking for help and one of the qualities that aided me while I was in gradaute school. Embodying this foundational skill is essential to your success in academia.  

, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

NASEM- Ford Foundation Fellow

Herman B. Wells  Fellow

Author, 

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