One of the hardest meetings with a supervisor can be the annual performance review, but not for the reasons you might think.  In order to grow, it’s crucial to get advice, support and mentorship from a supervisor but not once a year.  Who wants to wait potentially 11 months to find out that they messed something up and kept making the same mistake over and over instead of fixing the issue head on.   A yearly meeting just leads to more awkward conversations versus actual growth and development as a professional.  

So, what can we do about it?  Be proactive and schedule quarterly meetings with your supervisor.  When you initiate these sessions, you’re the one in the drivers seat and can work with your boss to come up with a professional development plan specific to your needs.  If you’re serious about the next step in your career this is a great approach to find out what you personally need to move forward.

Now you’re probably thinking.. “what in the world am I going to talk about during these sessions?”   These meetings are about working together, gaining feedback, and addressing areas for improvement that can be mutually beneficial to both you and your supervisor.  In other words, this is a 2-way conversation that requires both parties to interact with one another.   It’s really a win-win and keeps everyone on the same page more consistently.

First things, first:

Schedule your meeting

Take a few minutes and speak with your supervisor to let them know you’re interested in a quarterly check in.  Lay out your reasons for this request:

  • More “just in time” feedback
  • Opportunity to assess the needs of the organization and your role in this process
  • Timely professional development opportunities
  • Challenges and accomplishments you’ve been facing
  • Opportunity for more one-on-one interaction to learn from your expertise

Once you’ve had an initial conversation, put a meeting request for your first and second meeting (3 months after the first).  

During your meeting:

Now that you have the meeting on the schedule it’s time to prepare your 4 main talking points.  These will help guide your conversation for more constructive feedback and professional development opportunities.  The four areas are:

Accomplishments this quarter.

In this portion of the conversation, talk about what your strong points are and what you’ve done that was above and beyond your job description.  This is the space to humble brag about your accomplishments for items that might have been missed during an annual review.  Some things to consider are:

  • Did you increase efficiency and timeliness of an activity?
  • Did a project go better than expected?
  • Were you able to land a new client?
  • Did you save the organization money?
  • Did you start or initiate a new project?

Think critically over the past few months about your accomplishments.  Checking back through emails from clients and coworkers can be helpful to spark your memory about something you might be missing. You can also ask for feedback from colleagues, clients, or anyone you have had a professional interaction with.  The platform also gives you the ability store your accomplishments for easy identification and later use in conversations.

Challenges and issues faced this quarter.

Reflect over the past few months on your projects, client interactions, and larger scale deliverables.  What was missing from the equation?

  • Support from the organization?
  • Financial backing?
  • Efficient time to complete a project?
  • Lack of communication about deadlines?

This isn’t the time to place the blame but is a great opportunity to let your supervisor in on what you’re doing.  When someone oversees a lot of people they may not know the nuances of what is involved in certain tasks or where a communication breakdown might be.  Take this opportunity to have a 2-way dialogue about what you could have done better to improve the situation and what support you would be looking for in the future.  Especially if you have similar projects coming up you and want to make sure you have a system in place to be successful.

What professional development opportunities would be helpful for your career?

One of the huge benefits of a quarterly conversation is to get in on professional development opportunities when they occur.  There is nothing worse than someone telling you after the fact about an amazing conference or course they loved and you just missed.  

Remember, this is also two-way street so do your research!  Look at professional organizations and their upcoming events, ask your peers, and then speak with your supervisor both about potential funding and suggestions for events you might have missed. Coming prepared with an area you want to pursue or an upcoming event you want to attend will also help your supervisor understand your goals and come up with suggestions.

What do you need from your supervisor to pursue your professional goals?

This is the time to be honest and let them know what you’re looking for in a supervisor.  Are you looking for a mentor and someone you can get to know more personally?  Are you looking for more hands on advice or a little more space and freedom to complete your work.  This is the place to reflect on your strengths and ask for potential partners for areas you might be missing and to share areas that you might want to grow in or learn more about.

Some areas to think about are:

  • Assignment of a new project or team to explore a new area
  • More hands-on supervision or more time to process ideas or a combination of both
  • Continued honest feedback
  • Leadership program or training

The areas you speak about in this section can be a culmination of other things you’ve brought up with professional development opportunities and the challenges you’ve faced this quarter.  This is a great summary of your next steps and goals for the next 3 months.

Having more consistent and intentional conversations with your supervisor can not only enhance your career but help you build a stronger and more mentoring relationship.  Getting the opportunity to speak with them one-on-one about your goals and struggles while hearing constructive feedback is essential.

How have you taken advantage of feedback sessions with your supervisor?


Alissa Carpenter
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