How to ask for help

Software development is hard. When you’re just getting started, the task sometimes seems insurmountable. You’re not just missing a few pieces of the puzzle. You don’t know what the picture on the box looks like.

Most experienced developers love to help out. They don’t mind listening to a colleague’s problem and lending a hand. Experienced developers, however, are also very very busy.

The average aspiring developer is really bad at asking for help. They sabotage themselves in ways they don’t understand.

Ask for help

The number one sabotage attempt is to not ask for help. You’re not supposed to figure it out on your own. That’s what the internet is for.

LinkedIn,, #100daysofcode, … There are so many communities out there where you can get help. Yet most juniors are too shy or proud to ask.

“I’m new to Java and I’m struggling with inheritance. Is there anyone who can explain the basics or point me to a good tutorial?”

It’s not that hard.

Go easy on the commitment

“Looking for a mentor” sounds like the real deal, but it’s an unrealistic ask.

The idea that some stranger will react to that post and invest hours in your software career is delusional. Mentor-pupil relationships grow over time.

Better to ask specific question after specific question. The relationships might follow afterwards.

Make it easy on them

“Here’s my code, it doesn’t work”

A 5MB zip is thrown across the internet in the hope of getting an answer to why it doesn’t compile. That’s the software dev equivalent of “Can you do my homework, please?”

Your job as a junior is to make it easy for experienced devs to help you.

Put the code on a Github account so you can easily share it. Write a unit test that proves your issue. Add a README.MD file describing how your helper can easily reproduce the error.

Software developers spend a lot of hours debugging horrible code. They don’t mind helping, but they don’t want to do your work for you. It should take them under 3 minutes to see what’s wrong.

Asking for help is the key to a great career in software development.

Yes, there are rude people out there that will call you a noob for asking basic questions. Ignore them. If you make it easy for others to help, they will do so with gusto.

Blocked with that dumb SQL query? Ready to throw the towel in the ring?

Ask, but ask well…