We are naturally curious as human beings and want answers to our questions. However, there is one type of questioning that fills most of us with dread: asking for feedback. Asking for people’s opinions and evaluations of your work is not easy or natural, but it is key to advancing your career. Although it may not always be easy, asking for feedback can be made simpler with the proper preparation and by asking the right questions.

The Four Best Times to Request Feedback

1. During an annual review. This is an annual event where your manager will go over your successes and failures from the last year. Jaime Petkanics, Founder and Job Search Consultant at The Prepary, says that if your company doesn’t have a formal review process, you should ask your boss for a meeting. “If those opportunities don’t present themselves naturally, I think asking for feedback once per quarter is helpful without being too overwhelming,” she says.

2. Before an important meeting, presentation, or project. This is your chance to be coached or mentored by your boss. Also, after one of these scenarios, it would be a good idea to ask for feedback. Petkanics says, “It’s a good moment to take a step back, get your managers thoughts, and learn from the experience while it’s still fresh in everyone’s mind.”

3. During your day-to-day. Every day, there are numerous opportunities to ask for feedback or receive it unsolicitedly from your boss. If you’re receiving regular feedback at work, it’s a good sign that your career is on the right track. It means that your employer values your development and wants to help you grow.

How to Ask for Feedback

You’re probably familiar with the annual review meeting with your boss. They’ll ask you questions about, “How am I doing?” won’t get you very far. According to Petkanics, if you want more than a one-word answer, avoid asking questions that can only be answered with a single word. Instead, ask about both the good and bad.

“Don’t just focus on the negatives,” she says. “Managers enjoy giving balanced feedback, so give them the opportunity to do so. You can ask ‘what are some things that I did well?’ and ‘what are some things I could have done differently or better?’”

Asking for details and examples is also recommended by The Prepary founder. By taking these corrective measures, you can prevent future issues and optimize current processes. Petkanics says, “For example, if you get feedback saying ‘you could be a stronger communicator,’ you can follow up by asking for an example of a time you communicated something effectively and a time you had room to improve. This will help you put that feedback into action.”

To get an accurate gauge of your boss’s mindset, pose both general and specific questions during your meeting. Asking these questions, as recommended by Karin Hurt- the author of Overcoming an Imperfect Boss and a former executive at Verizon Wireless.

1. How can I help our team to achieve its goals?

2. If your boss could only give you one piece of advice, what would it be?

3. With whom should I develop a stronger relationship?

4. What elements of my appearance are you the most worried about?

5. More concretely, what do I need to develop further to be a prime candidate for (the job or project I am most eager to obtain)?

It is important to go into a situation with an open mind and be ready to accept feedback. “Whatever you do, say thank you, and don’t get defensive,” she says. “You don’t have to agree with them, or necessarily follow their advice. But asking for feedback and then reacting poorly will do more harm than good.”

Who to Ask for Feedback

It’s not just your boss you work with, so it’s crucial to get feedback from a variety of sources. Talk to anybody and everybody. Chat with your supervisor, get in touch with colleagues, communicate with clients, and even talk to competitors. If you have business acquaintances in companies that are our competition, ask them for their opinion on the strategies or products we’ve just launched. Your colleagues may provide feedback that indicates whether you’re pursuing a worthwhile venture, or they may express admiration for certain aspects of your company or projects.

Keep a “complements file” to ensure that you get feedback consistently. Be sure to keep track of any positive feedback you receive. This list of motivation techniques will help you in interviews, when requesting a promotion, or even when negotiating your salary. Taking note of the positive feedback you receive is crucial and will be useful down the line.

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