You probably think that you are as perfect an employee as they come. Truth be told, we never truly see ourselves the way others may see us. Remember the Mel Gibson movie, “What Women Want”? It wasn’t until Nick could hear women’s innermost thoughts, that he had an absolute epiphany. He wasn’t quite the charmer that he thought he was. When it comes to our career, however, how others may see us is critical to our success.
Careers do not happen in a vacuum. A successful career involves not only you, but managers, peers, clients and anyone else that you come in contact with while carrying out your daily activities. People that you deal with will see you differently depending on the context of the interaction. For example, co-workers may act like you are the life of the workplace, extremely funny and a joy to be around (at least they act like they do). Your supervisor may find, however, that you are immature and unproductive. Therefore, finding out how people perceive you in the workplace is extremely important. Not only will it help your career, but it will also help you to set career goals.
Why is it important to get feedback on how people perceive you both in and outside of the organization? Feedback allows you to learn exactly what people think about your work performance and consequently their expectations of you. The feedback will also provide information on what skills you need to work on or habits that require changing. It will also identify your strengths and weaknesses in communication. All of this can be used to create an effective career plan.
What type of feedback can your co-workers provide? While your supervisor monitors your work, your co-workers are the people that have first-hand knowledge on how you perform your daily functions. They see your work habits and style. Your co-workers can also let you know if you have improved over time. Since they operate on the same level, you can request direct feedback rather than going through a formal process. Find two or three co-workers whose opinion you trust. Ask them for their honest opinion, not what they think you want to hear. Offer to do the same for them if they want.
What type of feedback can your supervisor provide? Outside of regular merit evaluations, your supervisor can provide important feedback on your performance and potential to succeed in the position and company. This feedback can be either formal or informal depending on what you (and your supervisor) prefer. They also provide subtle clues regarding your work performance. If you are constantly being handed increasingly important projects or promotion opportunities, you can infer that you are doing extremely well. Use your supervisor’s feedback to consider changing your work habits and set goals.
There are other sources of feedback that you can obtain to help you get a well-rounded picture. Feedback from trusted customers and other departments are all extremely helpful to “fill-in the blanks”. By requesting and comparing feedback, not only will you get a clear picture of how people see you, but you may also get a self-image reality check.