Getting ahead at work could come down to asking the right questions. And contrary to the old advice – “There are no stupid questions only stupid people” – some questions are better than others. So here’s advice from career coach Mika Brzezinski - the best questions to ask, no matter what work situation you’re in. 

  • Start by asking your boss this: “How can I help?” When your boss is slammed, the smart employee will try to take some of the pressure off of her shoulders. Even if all you can do is make copies, or get her a coffee, she’ll think of you as someone she can rely on when things get crazy. And that can lead to you taking on more serious assignments. 

  • When you’re on a conference call, ask this: “Hey Mark, do you have any thoughts?” More people are working from home, so group calls are getting more common. But when you don’t see someone face to face, you have no idea if they’re rolling their eyes at your idea, or nodding in agreement. So ask for input from a specific person. Otherwise, you may hang up and never know what they really think. 

More questions to ask at work:

  • Try this when you’re having an awkward elevator moment with the big cheese. Simply say, “Hey, how’s it going?” You won’t have enough time to launch into a full-blown conversation, but you have enough time for casual chit-chat. Asking the big cheese ‘how’s it going?’ shows you’re not so intimidated that you clam up. And that you’re an outgoing, friendly person. Those are two good traits. 

  • And the final question to ask at work: “How did I do?” After you finish a project - no matter what profession you’re in – it’s always good to get feedback. But don’t put the boss on the spot. It may be better to ask that in an email – you’ll get a more honest answer than face-to-face, when the boss may hold back because she doesn’t want to see you cry. It’ll also give the boss more time to think about her answer and give you more complete feedback.