For many people, feedback has a negative connotation—namely, that it consists of sitting in an office and listening to your boss telling you everything you’re doing wrong. But for millennials who are just starting out, or only a few years into a career, feedback can be an invaluable tool for accelerating your professional development and getting you into a leadership position.
Here’s how feedback can help you, along with tips on how you can harness feedback to improve your professional standing and advance in your career.
Feedback helps you focus your goals
It’s easy to view feedback as a laundry list of things you’re doing wrong—but don’t fall for this discouraging perception. For the recipient, as well as the person giving the feedback, it’s simply a tool to point out how you can improve your opportunities for advancement.
Feedback is more than mistakes you can avoid (although those are worth noting). When receiving feedback, you should also hear about skills you can develop and qualities you can enhance—the things you’re doing right, that your supervisor would like to see more often. One of the most important values of feedback is the ability to help you stop wasting time, and start focusing on those areas that will get you noticed.
Rather than waiting for feedback to happen to you, the best strategy is to proactively seek feedback. When you ask to meet with your boss or supervisor to review your performance on a regular basis, you’re showing initiative to improve—an important and sought-after leadership quality.
The following tips will help you make the most of your feedback sessions and gain positive value from constructive criticism.
Lay the ground rules
Since you’re the one asking for feedback, you have the opportunity to ask for exactly the kind of feedback you want. Make it clear that you’re asking for constructive feedback in order to improve your performance, and state your goals. Whether you’re looking for a raise, a promotion, or general advice on getting ahead, providing specific goals can help your supervisor tailor the feedback accordingly.
Listen and take notes
Many people listen to feedback with an ear for the defensive—spending the whole time preparing a rebuttal to explain why the criticism is wrong. This type of defensive listening makes feedback worthless, because you’re not really hearing what is said. Instead, train yourself to contain those knee-jerk reactions and listen proactively to the advice being given. Identify opportunities for improvement, rather than the chance to defend your performance.
You should also take notes during feedback sessions. This not only helps you remember important advice, but also allows you to minimize the feeling of being judged by not looking directly at the person giving feedback all the time. Then you can review your notes later with an objective eye, while you’re not under the direct pressure of receiving feedback, and decide which parts are valid and useful.
Ask for clarification
If you find yourself getting defensive about certain feedback, resist the temptation to pounce. Instead, ask for specifics about the issue—you may be interpreting the feedback in the wrong way. This also turns your feedback session into a meaningful dialogue, instead of a one-way lecture.
And if you still feel the person offering feedback is wrong after the points are clarified, explain your own perspective on why you handled the issue the way you did—and ask for suggestions about how you could have done it differently.
End on a positive note
Toward the end of the feedback session, be sure to ask directly how you can improve your performance and achieve your career goals. This places the focus on future actions you can take, instead of mistakes you may have made in the past—which is beneficial for both you and your boss.
Finally, thank your boss or supervisor for taking the time to give you feedback. Chances are, they don’t enjoy giving performance reviews any more than you enjoy receiving them—so they’ll appreciate knowing that you’ll benefit from the information, and that you plan to implement their advice in your performance.