Secret weapon: use feedback to your advantage

While it's nice to hear managers praise your work, receiving only positive feedback won't help you grow professionally. In order to excel at your internship or improve your job performance, you need to get comfortable with constructive feedback.

Follow these three steps to use feedback to your professional advantage:

1. Get quality feedback by asking specific questions.

The first step to getting quality feedback is to ask specific questions. Remember, managers are people too. In the same way that you're uncomfortable hearing criticism, they may feel uncomfortable voicing it.

If you want useful feedback, you need to ask the right questions. Instead of a general, "Do you have any feedback for me?", ask more specific questions like, "What's one way I could have improved that presentation?" If the answers you're getting are too vague, try asking simpler questions such as, "What's something new I could try?" so you can identify exactly what you need to improve and which direction to take.

Finally, don't wait for your annual review or only ask your supervisor for feedback. If you're regularly asking your colleagues, as well as your superiors for feedback, you'll grow and improve all year long. For example, catch your manager right after a big presentation and asking those specific questions to ensure the feedback is relevant and fresh.

2. Interpret results by looking for patterns.

Asking for and receiving ongoing feedback also makes your next step easier: interpreting your feedback results by looking for patterns. Sometimes it's difficult to accept other people's points of view about our behavior, but remember to remain solution focused when discussing feedback. When looking for patterns, try not to take it personally. We can all use some help better understanding our own behavior and interactions. That's where the gift of feedback comes in. The more feedback you receive, the easier it will be to recognize patterns and understand where you need to make changes. Your colleagues and supervisors are only trying to help you become more competent and valuable.

3. Develop a plan of action and act on suggestions in a measurable way.

Now that you've asked the right questions and have a clear idea of where you can improve, the final step is to develop a plan of action. You're going to take the suggestions from your colleagues and supervisors and act on them in a measurable way. Brainstorm ideas of how you can apply the feedback you’ve received and develop a specific strategy and set goals for yourself.

For example, if you've noticed a pattern of people commenting that you sometimes misunderstand them, make a habit of confirming what the person has said or asking a follow-up question before moving on. Once you've made the adjustments, check your efforts through — you guessed it — feedback!

The more comfortable you are with asking for and receiving constructive feedback, the faster you can use this secret weapon to your advantage.