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The Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback

We avoid it, duck it and justify why it isn’t the right time for it because it is hard! Scheduling a feedback session is like your annual mammogram: you know you need to do it and getting it over with feels great, but it creates anxiety just thinking about it.

This summer one of our interns was not succeeding like the others. In fairness, she was the only intern I hired without a full vetting process– I already knew her, loved her personality and suggested that she intern. (Note to self: there is a good reason why the process of interviewing and reference checking hasn’t changed much with time—it works and should not be cut short, even for those in your network.)

Using a technique I had found effective in the corporate world, I invited her for a walk. This eliminated the intensity of facing each other and where to look, got our blood moving and put us on equal footing (literally), making it a lot easier on her.  Oh, and of course, if she wanted to bolt she had the opportunity.

During our walk, we talked about her perceptions, my observations and whether she had heard similar feedback from previous employers, before working for CareerFuel. She had. I also explained to her how the issues currently affecting her internship would plague her in future jobs if not addressed now.  This was followed up with suggestions for how to change the behavior.

As a result of our walk that day, something amazing happened. She wrote me later the same day telling me how much she appreciated the feedback, how fair and accurate it was and how she was dedicating herself to making changes. I received another similar email later this summer, in which she repeated her appreciation for our feedback session and her commitment to addressing the issues. She was learning, which is just what someone at the age of 19 should be doing and it is why summer internships can be so valuable. Internships give the young a chance to make mistakes, trial professional behavior and get some feedback before their rent depends upon their job performance.

This intern turned what could have been a negative experience into something positive, demonstrating desirable traits that, with a little more time and coaching, will lead to a great career.  I can only hope that when my children mature and are in this position that they treat their inevitable feedback with the same attitude.

My success rate with employee feedback sessions is far from 100%, but it is an essential part of the job and, like the mammogram, can ultimately save your life.

Internships are a great place to learn and develop professional skills. Meet guest blogger Tamara and learn about how she is juggling three internships in order to build her personal brand.

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