Young Professionals and the Power of Constructive Criticism

Although I’m very early in my career, I’ve learned that constructive criticism from supervisors and mentors is an incredibly effective tool for boosting a young professional’s career.

Unless your boss is Simon Cowell, you’d be wise to listen to, and honestly evaluate, the feedback received – especially if the feedback comes from someone who genuinely has your best interests at heart.

Here are some steps I’ve found that may help you successfully use constructive criticism to your advantage.

Don’t Take It Personally

Remind yourself that feedback from your mentor is not a personal attack. A mentor’s role is to evaluate and help you to improve both your strengths and weaknesses… not solely to provide you with gold stars for accomplishments.  Taking this advice negatively will only result in a bad attitude and decreased productivity while you focus instead on defending yourself. Accept feedback as it is intended – to help you.

Listen Up!

When your mentor offers words of wisdom, listen carefully. Always be prepared to take notes and ask questions. Remember that most of what your mentor conveys is an important part of the critique/feeback process. Show your mentor that you are serious about improving your work by acting on the suggested corrective actions.

Build Your Soft Skills

By acting on the constructive criticism, you’ll learn to improve your soft skills which are necessary in any professional environment – and much in demand by employers.  These skills include leadership qualities, a strong work ethic, communication, problem solving, and time management.

Follow Up With Your Mentor

So you took your mentor’s advice and started to approach certain segments of your work differently. Now schedule a conversation with your mentor to make sure that you are both on the same page regarding your progress. Whenever possible, quantify your improvement (increased productivity by 15%, for example). Are you being more productive? Does your mentor feel that you’re gaining key skills for your position and industry?

This important process will ensure that you gain an objective view of whether you are becoming a stronger employee. If you are not receiving feedback on a regular basis, ask your direct supervisor for frequent feedback sessions to help you evaluate your performance, growth, and areas that need improvement.

By taking constructive criticism well, you make yourself a greater asset to your current company, and develop your soft skills, greatly improving your value as a member of the workforce early in your career.

What is the best piece of constructive criticism you’ve received in the workplace? How did you act on this advice to better yourself?

About the author: In addition to being a Social Media Marketing Intern for YouTern, Matthew is a college student who is active on his campus as president of his school’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, a student ambassador, and a peer mentor.  Matthew is also a contributor to Zinch.com’s blog. You can reach Matthew via Twitter at @MatthewTForrest.

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