Working in tech means being at the forefront of new trends, having massive opportunity for advancement, and (let’s be honest) often commanding a pretty great salary.
But staying at your best in tech means constantly chasing moving targets. After all, coding languages and development environments change about as quickly as the seasonal drink selection at your local coffee shop.
So how do you make sure you stay relevant and keep up? One of our favorite ways is to conduct a Personal 360° review prior to a more formal company review. That way, you're on top of any feedback (positive or constructive) and can start to implement before your company's annual performance review.
In short, this tactic is a way to gather feedback from colleagues, friends, and maybe even your family. You provide a list of questions, aggregate their responses, and then learn a ton about what you’re great at—and where you’ve got room to improve. When you’re done, you’ll have insight into the skills you need to learn, those you should hone, and how you can improve as a professional and co-worker.
If you’re anxious about the idea of another review, rest assured that this process is very different than a traditional performance evaluation. Want to learn more? Here’s how a Personal 360° can keep you competitive in tech and prepare you for your next big move.
Who to Ask
360° reviews are becoming common within startups and major companies alike, so you might have already received one. But even if you have, a Personal 360° can shed additional light into how you can grow—especially if you tailor it to focus on gearing up for a new role.
The first step is identifying people you’d love feedback from. Your boss or other superiors are great people to tap. Your peers at the office are another no-brainer—they see how you interact with others on a daily basis. Definitely include anyone you work closely with who’s one to two steps ahead of where you want to be now or who might have good insight on your technical skills. (Just, uh, be careful not to broadcast your desire to move on. Try couching it in terms like “professional development” and “being a better asset to the company.”)
You can even consider adding a few friends or family members into the mix. These should be close contacts who know you well, not just acquaintances. And while, no, they might not be able to give feedback about your coding abilities or working style, they’ll likely have insight into things like your responsiveness, sensitivity, and openness to change.
How to Ask
Once you’ve identified 10-15 respondents, it’s time to build the survey itself. (We love Google Forms, which are easy to use, don’t cost a thing, and can be totally anonymous.)
Start with questions about your tech skills—both the skills, languages, and software programs you use every day, as well as those you may need to work on. Then, focus on soft skills, things like collaboration, responsiveness and leadership qualities.
For these types of skills, consider offering your respondents the opportunity to rank you on a numbered scale, with one being “needs serious improvement” and five being “Already mastered.” It’ll be quick and easy for them to score you, as well as give you a high-level overview of your strengths and areas of improvement.
What’s equally valuable, though, is asking open-ended qualitative questions to gather broader feedback about your working style and skills. Executive coach Michael Melcher suggests pairing questions to help participants avoid focusing on solely negative or positive feedback, such as “What’s my strength? and “What’s not my strength?” or “What career can you see me in?” and “What career can you definitely not see me in?” Structuring your questions like this may make it easier for respondents to provide honest feedback without fear of coming across as too harsh.
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How to Send It
When you’re ready to send the questions to your selected respondents, create an email tailored to each person you send to. For example, tell your co-worker, “I really enjoyed working with you on that sales project last month. I’m hoping to sharpen my negotiation skills, so would love your input and feedback. I would so appreciate it if you filled out this Google form (it’s totally anonymous), so that I can see where I still need to grow.”
You’ll likely get the most valuable feedback if you briefly introduce what you’re looking to achieve, or the specific areas you’re working on.
How to Deal With the Feedback
So, here’s the thing about reviews (especially anonymous ones): You’re bound to get compliments, but the feedback might also surprise you, and not in a good way.
Keep in mind that critical feedback is the most valuable type you can receive. After all, how will you grow if you don’t know where to start? For a Personal 360° to be effective, it’s critical that you don’t become defensive or angry. Be open, accepting, and grateful that your boss, colleagues, and friends value you enough to provide constructive feedback.
Once you’ve identified the areas in which you can grow, it’s time for the final step of the review: Deciding what you’ll do with all this information. Take some time to process the feedback, then sit down to set some goals, look into courses or other resources that can help you improve, and put together a personal action plan.
Oh, and you can do this more than once, by the way—perhaps annually, or any time you’re considering a big move. Hone your skills, never stop improving, and you’re bound to stay ahead of the curve.