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The Importance of Getting Feedback

This is an exciting time for the NetHope Academy Intern Program!

December 5, 2013

This is an exciting time for the NetHope Academy Intern Program! In the last two months, we have seen several new classes begin their internships in Kenya and South Africa. Just last week, our 4th class of Haiti interns began their boot camp along with another group of interns in Rwanda. With all of these new opportunities beginning, and with 90%+ of our graduates now working in full time jobs, we wanted to share some tips on how to get feedback.

Do you ever wonder what your supervisor really thinks of you and your work? Do you think he or she assesses your performance the same way you perceive it? Internships are a great chance for you to gain practical work experience, and they also present a great opportunity for you to learn more about yourself from an employer’s perspective.

Whether you are still in your internship or you have recently started a full-time position, soliciting feedback from your employer and taking it to heart early on in your career will set you up for future success. Although it may sometimes be uncomfortable or challenging to ask your supervisor for feedback, doing so is a critical part of your development as an IT professional. With a little practice, asking for feedback can become a natural part of your day and set you up to successfully achieve your goals. 

Why is it important to get feedback?

Even those who excel at their jobs can always find room for improvement and growth. We all have strengths and weaknesses. If you don’t know what your weaknesses are, you will never overcome them. You may think you are really great at something, but others may perceive this differently. For example, many of our interns say they are great at problem solving. However, several IT Managers say they wish the interns would proactively come prepared with more solutions of their own rather than having to rely on their supervisor for an answer. On the other hand, your supervisor might provide positive feedback about one of your talents (e.g., displaying great patience when working with users to troubleshoot problems) that you never even thought of as a talent before. Understanding how you can develop your growth opportunities and continue to build upon your strengths will make you a more effective contributor.       

Here are some tips for getting feedback:

1.     Start early. Don’t wait until 6 months into your role to ask how you’re doing. Check in with your supervisor in the first 1-2 months of a new role to get their feedback. Schedule some informal feedback sessions every 2-3 months when you are still relatively new to the organization.  A good time to do this is after your first big task or presentation.

2.     Be proactive. Many organizations have official policies and procedures in place for their annual review cycles. In addition to these required activities, you should reach out to your supervisor every couple of months to get their input and to let them know you are interested in developing yourself.

3.     Know how you are being evaluated. Be sure you are aware of the performance review criteria and process at your company.  Assess how you stack up against these desired characteristics. The formal review form will let you know exactly what your employer is looking for, and it is best to keep this in mind as you embark on your journey.

4.     Getting feedback does not always have to be a formal event. Ask for informal feedback after completing a major task or presentation. A simple, “How did you think that presentation went?  Is there anything I could have done to make it better?” should give you the coaching you need to position yourself for success the next time. This also helps eliminate surprises during formal reviews. Make a habit out of doing this, and it will become natural with time

5.     Solicit feedback from someone who knows you and your work well. Asking someone you rarely interact with for feedback won’t make sense. Even if you don’t interact with your IT Manager very often, be sure to proactively keep him or her apprised of what you are doing via concise weekly emails or brief status update meetings.

6.     Make it easy on your supervisor to provide feedback. Come prepared with specific projects you’ve worked on and the results achieved so your boss does not have to do all the work. Then ask for feedback on specific areas, such as your communication skills.

7.     Prepare for the feedback session in advance. Send your supervisor some questions in advance. Here are some good ones:

a.     What are some things I am doing well and should continue doing?  What do you see as my greatest strength?

b.     What are three things I should improve or do differently?

c.     What can I do to be more helpful to people on my team?

d.     What can I do to make your job easier?

e.     What knowledge or skills do you think I need to develop to reach my goal? (Hint: Be sure that your IT manager knows what your goals are.)

8.     Meet in person to discuss feedback. It is best to have a discussion about feedback in person whenever possible. Details can often get lost or misinterpreted over email.

9.     Be receptive. Really listen to the feedback and ask for clarifying examples when you need more detail. Do not get defensive when someone says something about you that you do not enjoy hearing.

10.  Try not to take negative feedback personally. Use it as an opportunity to develop. Ask for an example and repeat it back to your supervisor so you are clear about what the negative feedback is about. Remind yourself that your supervisor is helping you by sharing this critique. 

11.  Seek feedback from multiple sources. Don’t be afraid to ask others for their opinions or ask them how they would handle certain challenging situations that you have faced. Remember, everyone handles things differently and it is good to get a variety of perspectives.

12.  Act on feedback. Feedback alone won’t help you improve. Develop an action plan after your feedback session and figure out how you will execute your supervisor’s feedback. Make a timeline for implementing your action plan and be sure to report your progress the next time you meet with your supervisor.

13.  Provide upward feedback. Some supervisors will do a good job of asking you for your feedback about them as well. If not, in a tactful way, say, “Can I share some ways you could help me do my job better?” Take the opportunity to highlight a few things that your supervisor can do to help empower you.

14.  File your feedback. Keep a folder with all of your performance reviews notes from feedback discussions, special emails of praise, awards, etc. This way you will have a record to support formal reviews, to reflect on your action plan progression, and to gauge your progress towards meeting your goals.  

Following the tips above will set you up for getting feedback both now and later in your career. Knowing you are appreciated at work is key to your job satisfaction.  Soliciting and acting on performance feedback will set you up for success!

Have you recently gotten feedback from your supervisor? What did you learn? How did the feedback process help you? Are you planning to try out the techniques shared above? Which ones? How did you react to times when you’ve received negative feedback? What steps did you take after a time when you’ve received negative feedback? Share your stories with us below! Perhaps a question on negative feedback? 

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