Want to Build Your Career? Ask Your Boss These Questions

How do you get quality feedback from your boss—and how do you get your boss to invest in helping you build your career?

According to Julie Zhuo, Product Design Vice President at Facebook and author of The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You, it all comes down to the questions you ask.

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Zhuo shared a list of ten questions that can turbocharge your career on Medium, and here’s an excerpt:

2. What do you think it would look like for me to be twice as good at what I do, or for this project to go twice as well?

If you’re feeling a puff of pride about how you knocked that last project out of the park, or how you’re firing on all cylinders, it’s time to unveil this little question and present it to your manager, or another senior supervisor who knows your work.

We tend to rise only as far as what we can envision. If your bar for “amazing work” is say, at level nine, and you hit it, you probably won’t be gunning to do more. But if someone says to you, “Try going for level 15 — here’s what that looks like,” suddenly, you have a new goal in front of you. As they say, shoot for the stars, and you’ll land on the moon. Bonus points: this question shows others that you’re eager, proactive, and always aiming for more.

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When I was in my late 20s, I spent four years working as an executive assistant at a think tank in Washington, DC. During that time, I did my best to ask for feedback, but after reading Zhuo’s list of questions I realize how unspecific my requests were.

Asking “is there anything I can do to improve,” for example, is too broad; my managers gave responses like “you’re doing fine” or “I’ll let you know,” both of which probably meant “I can’t think of anything off the top of my head.” Bosses are busy, and—unless you’re making repeated mistakes or significantly underperforming at your job—aren’t likely to have constructive criticism at the ready.

If I had asked a better question, such as Zhuo’s “Where have I had the most impact over the past few months, from your perspective?” I might have gotten a better answer. That type of question, asked at the right moment (such as during or prior to a performance review), can give your boss the opportunity to provide thoughtful, focused feedback.

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Some of Zhuo’s questions are designed to let your boss know that you’re interested in taking your career to the next level, and that you’d appreciate their advice and insight along the way. You still have to find the right moment to start this kind of conversation, but if you can make the time to ask these career-building questions, you might get both good answers and your boss’s long-term support.

Read Zhuo’s full list of questions, and let us know if you’ve ever asked your manager for this type of feedback—and how it went.

 

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