360 Degrees of You
Know what 360-degree feedback is? It is when you ask the people around you what they think of you in a certain context, like ”at work” or “in class”.
What do you think your supervisors, peers and professors would say about you?
And why is this so important?
Where do I begin?!
360-degree feedback, or multi-rater feedback, is used by human resources and organizational development professionals to assess employee performance. Used by many Fortune 500 companies in employee performance reviews, feedback from multiple sources has been shown to be effective in employee development.
In an Interview
“What would your current supervisor say about you?”
I always ask some form of this question when I conduct practice interviews with students and alumni.
And I’m surprised when they’re surprised that I asked this question.
Don’t you wonder what your current supervisor thinks about you? What does he or she perceive as your strengths? Where could you improve?
If you don’t know what your manager thinks about you, it’s time to have a discussion.
I’m really impressed in practice interviews when a candidate offers up this kind of information without being prompted. For example, when I ask about “strengths,” it’s pretty perceptive for a candidate to list strengths that they’ve reflected on as well as strengths that a manager has commented about. They might say, ”I can offer strong interpersonal skills. In fact, my former internship supervisor mentioned several times that I was one of the most respected interns on staff due to my ease with colleagues at all levels.”
360-degree feedback is just as useful when you are asked about your weaknesses.
In practice interviews, I’ve found that it is really hard for students to come up with legitimate weaknesses, particularly weaknesses that are current – and not something you’ve already overcome. Ask those closest to you - family, friends, a roommate - to help you come up with a short list of those scary weaknesses. Ask them if they can remember a time when a weakness really impacted your work. While it may be convenient for you to forget those times when your weaknesses have affected your performance, a good friend who helped you through it may remember it more readily and present it to you in an objective way.
Many Career Services offices offer a variety of assessments such as the Strong Interest Inventory and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). What these assessments don’t often include is a space for those around you to rate you, and that’s because it’s a pretty time-intensive activity.
One assessment that does ask for feedback from those around you is the Student Leadership Practice Inventory (Student LPI), developed by James M. Kouzes and Barry D. Posner, authors of The Student Leadership Challenge. This assessment looks at your skills within the context of student leadership.
“While the Student LPI assessment provides for self-measurement, the Student LPI Observer collects valuable 360-degree feedback from teachers, coaches, student advisors, teammates, fellow club members, co-workers, or others who have direct experience of the individual Student Leader in a leadership role.”
“Student Leaders can take the Student LPI Self assessment, and ask others to participate in this process by completing the Student LPI Observer assessment. Each assessment contains 30 statements describing specific leadership behaviors, rated on a 1 to 5 point frequency scale, and takes approximately 10-15 minutes to complete.” www.studentlpi.com
Don’t wait until you need to ask for a letter of recommendation to wonder what your teachers and supervisors think about you. It’s easy to forget that you make an impression on all of the people who help you to achieve your goals, and it’s hard to ask these people for feedback on what you could be doing differently.
For students though, it’s especially important to ask for feedback and constructive criticism in a professional manner. Being able to take criticism, asking questions when you need more information, making changes when asked, being coachable - all of these are important strengths to develop that will allow you to advance to the next level.
Conduct your own informal 360-degree review.
Create a short questionnaire that you’ll send to professors, coaches, mentors, supervisors, peers, and even, family. Ask them to be honest and explain why you’re seeking this information: in an effort to do a good job at self-assessment, you want to see what others think of you. Sounds brutal, right? Start with a couple of people who know you really well. You might be surprised at what you learn!
Nicole Anderson is an Assistant Director/Career Counselor for Tufts University Career Services. With fourteen years of experience in college career services, Nicole’s expertise includes career counseling undergraduates, graduate students, and alumni from liberal arts, science, engineering, business, and education.