Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Getting Feedback at a New Job Often Requires a Balancing Act

Cathy Goodwin of www.copy-cat-copywriting.com read her copy of the May 20th Wall Street Journal earlier in the day than I got to my copy. And then in an email to her ezine subscribers about three tips for blog topics, she mentioned Sarah E. Needleman’s WSJ article “It Pays to Plan Ahead When Taking a New Job.”

Needleman writes: “In the first month, ask for your boss’s opinion of how you’re doing on a weekly basis. Then scale back to once every two to three weeks.”

Cathy Goodwin commented: “Gimme a break. Can you imagine a new employee hounding the boss with that infamous ‘How am I doing’ question?”

The gist of what Needleman and Goodwin each said has relevance for young people at their first internship or job. It requires walking a fine line between making sure you’re doing what is expected of you and not bothering your boss so much that he/she wishes to have never hired you.

Different situations call for different tactics. One tactic is to listen carefully to what someone says to you. Frequently it’s the subtext – what he or she doesn’t say – that is the real comment on how you’re doing.

Another tactic is to check with a colleague for feedback. In fact, if you asked a different colleague for help with each different part of your job, you might have found a way to establish connections for yourself with your co-workers without burdening any one person with excessive feedback questions.

Another tactic is to ask at the time you are offered a position: What kind of feedback will I get on how I’m doing? Will I only get formal feedback after three months? Or will you let me know whenever you have a concern about what I’m doing?

If the person to whom you’re asking these questions is an effective manager, he/she should pick up on your subtext – and understand you are giving permission, if warranted, to correct your actions before they can get you fired.

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