St. Paul, MN — Performance reviews at work are the worst. OK — maybe not the worst — but they sure are intimidating. And that’s exactly how I felt about my first one.
It’s been over eight months at my new job and even though things have finally started to feel more comfortable, there are definitely parts of it that I’m still navigating — including figuring out how to feel safe enough to ask my supervisors for what I need.
Asking for help can be one of the most uncomfortable, frustrating and hardest things to do. And it can seem especially selfish when you know everyone you work with is grinding and trying to meet their deadlines just like you.
I never thought I would have an issue with this as someone who always speaks my mind. So preparing for my first performance review at work, I knew I had to be true to myself. I couldn’t ignore or not mention what wasn’t working for me.
In preparation for the review, I was given a self evaluation form with some standard questions along the lines of Explain what you've learned about yourself and how you'd like to grow.
At first glance, I felt pretty confident about answering these questions. Then as I read further, I was asked things like my areas for improvement and to name things that could be better.
This is when my eyes got big and my heart fell into my stomach. I thought to myself, Sure, there’s always room for improvement, but how can I ask my job to help me with that? This was the first time since college that I felt embarrassed to ask for help. It made me feel like a weirdo for bringing up the fact that I still didn’t know how to write the perfect email or how to act during a Zoom meeting — it was all the things that I had been struggling with, but I felt like I needed to seem like I had it all together and that they didn’t hire a fraud.
After thinking about all these things, I decided to lead with honesty. And my review turned out great because of it. I walked away feeling more in sync with my supervisor and even got validating feedback from my peers that I didn’t even recognize about myself. In this experience, I learned that the more I rely on my instincts to help me navigate my new job, the more space I have to create meaning in my work. Here are a few things I bought up in my review that you can consider next time you talk to your boss:
Mentorship. When I was honest, I basically asked for help and more training. I've had mentors since I’ve been in college and feel no shame about it. I even asked for mentorship when I first interviewed for my position. Having a support system and someone to rely on when you have a question makes a huge difference. Just because you’re working in your profession doesn’t mean you can’t still be mentored.
Ask for Feedback. I wish I would’ve taken people more literally in the beginning when they asked if I had any questions instead of saying, “Nope! Sounds good.” Asking for feedback is not only a way to show that you care, but it can be a great way to get what you need and learn how to do your job better.
Name Things. If something seems unclear, just say it. Ask for clarification. Passing work between each other should be setting each other up for success. It’s not just your error when you don’t understand, it’s also the person explaining it.
Workplaces don’t understand all the things that go through your head when you’re just starting your career. So it’s up to you to trust your instincts and take responsibility for your own growth and development. If you don’t ask for it, you may not get it.