Best career advice: ask for feedback

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The best career advice I ever heard was this:

“No one cares more about your career than you!”

If you wait for your manager or your company’s review process to give you feedback, it’s almost certainly going to come later than you’d like. There’s a good chance that you’ll have missed out on opportunities to improve and the review you eventually get will bake in the bad habits you could have fixed if only you’d known.

This isn’t really surprising.

Think about this from your manager’s perspective. Your manager has dozens of urgent issues on their mind, particularly about whether they’re getting things done to show their boss. Their calendar is probably overbooked, and they’re juggling too many responsibilities.

If you screw up bad, you’ll hear about it, but if you’re just falling a little short of expectations, they’re probably not going to tell you because they’re avoiding that conflict. If you’re meeting or beating expectations, then you’re not an urgent problem, and so they don’t need to think about how you could be even better.

You can break the log jam by asking for feedback. Assuming your manager is halfway decent, if you ask them to sit down and talk about how you’re doing, they’ll probably agree. Keep it casual – a lunch can work well.

“Hey, could we get lunch sometime soon? I’d love to get some quick thoughts on how I’m doing and what I could be doing better?”

Or, if lunch isn’t possible, any upcoming meeting will do.

“Hey, at our next 1:1, could I get some quick thoughts on how I’m doing and what I could be doing better?”

A decent manager will feel an obligation to respond to a direct, personal request, in a way they don’t feel obligated to a company review process. By keeping it a casual conversation, you make it easy for them. (But do give a little advance notice so they can organize their thoughts!) The feedback you hear will be fresh in their mind, instead of summarized from vague memories months later.

Don’t overdo it! Once a quarter or after finishing a big project is a good cadence. If you’re able to act on feedback a few times a years instead of just once a year, you’ll see a huge payoff in compounding of your career growth.

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