Don’t Forget to Ask for Feedback
Looking back at my internship last summer, though it was a fruitful learning experience, I made one glaring mistake that I now regret: I never explicitly asked my managers or team members to give me feedback on how I was doing. Having just completed CLTP and a Leadership course this past spring, both of which stressed feedback’s importance, I was not about to repeat that mistake this summer.
I definitely learn from doing, but i think just as much can be learned from listening. But how can I listen if no one’s telling? My managers at Albany Center Gallery, the non-profit art gallery where I’m interning this summer, have been super cool and communicative so far. When I finish a task though, they usually say something like “awesome, good job,” or “cool, thank you” before assigning me my next task or project. Even though it’s “cool” to hear that I did a “cool” job on that last task, but it’d be much “cool”-er to hear what was “cool” and un-“cool” about the work that I just finished. Putting myself in their shoes, I realized that for them, giving me useful feedback when I have not actually solicited it from them might feel weird; they’re really really nice and might feel like their imposing criticism that I’m not ready for. But that’s not the case; I want to hear about the good and the bad, what I’ve done well and where I’ve missed the target.
So after asking both of my managers to meet with me, we sat down for a 2-on-1, 2-directional feedback meeting. As it turned out, they had only good things to say so far. They appreciated my level of independence and that I tried to squeeze in small projects that I came up with on my own between the ones actually requested of me. It turned out that they wanted to hear my feedback for them too, so the meeting was helpful for both sides.
I was also not surprised that they do not regularly get asked for feedback from other interns and volunteers. They actually wanted to organize a more formal feedback process so that everyone could have this sort of meeting with them. A couple weeks later, I actually overheard one of my managers asking another intern, who had been working there even longer than me, to set up the same type of meeting that we had already had. Don’t wait for feedback to fall from the sky, actively solicit it!
Some final notes on feedback: The feedback I got was all positive, which is good in a way but also not. It’s good to be praised but we all probably learn more about where we should improve from negative feedback. So it doesn’t hurt to reiterate that you are open and eager to hear everything the other person has to say, whether it’s positive or negative. They will appreciate your interest in self-improvement for the good of both yourself and the company. Also, depending on the circumstances, feedback doesn’t necessarily need to come from a formal meeting with your higher-ups. Ask for constructive criticism early and often, from your peers, managers, friends, whatever. Be open to what people have to say, because you can only see yourself from one perspective and that’s your own. There are 7.6 billion other perspectives to hear from, so get out there!