Career Power-UpCareer Skills

How to Request Feedback and Actually Get It

By Paige Kassalen

I was sitting around a conference table with a group of young professionals and heard someone say, “I love getting feedback, but I can’t find people to actually give it to me.”

Receiving feedback and using it to continuously improve upon ourselves is an important key for professional growth, but it is true that it can be challenging to actually get someone to provide feedback.

People are afraid of hurting your feelings, aren’t sure what to say, or unsure if it really matters if they provide feedback.

If we want to grow, it is not enough to say. “I asked for feedback, but they didn’t give it to me.” We need to adapt the way we are asking for feedback, in order to ensure a positive outcome.

  1. Ask someone who knows you well

If you are seriously looking for feedback, start with the people who are closest to you. It is important to start with someone who knows you well, because they understand enough about you and your goals to provide relevant feedback.

We all can be speaking slower in presentations, building up our technical skills, or developing a stronger attention to detail, but when you’re looking for feedback, you want something customized to help you be the strongest version of yourself.

People who know you well can provide this customized feedback, and know how to deliver the information without potentially coming off too harsh.

  1. Put a limit on the amount of feedback you want

When you ask someone to provide feedback, they may start to think of their entire relationship with you and not know where to start. Instead, try saying “what is one thing I could be doing better?” If one thing is easy for them to name, next time ask them for three to help you grow more!

When you put a limit on the amount of feedback you’re looking for, it is less overwhelming for the feedback giver. Anyone can think of one thing to provide feedback on, and this will also make this one piece of feedback less generic.

  1. Explain why you want feedback

When you ask for feedback, there is a reason. Explaining the rationale to the person you’re asking for feedback from can help them better understand where to target their response.

No matter if you’re trying to be a better teammate, positioning yourself for a promotion, or looking to strengthen your presentation skills, simply sharing these details will help you get more targeted feedback. You also break down the barriers of a one-way feedback session and shift the conversation to a collaborative discussion to help you reach your goals.

  1. Acknowledge an area you know you need to improve on

I know I need to improve in certain areas, so it can be hard to hear that something I’m working on is an area I need to improve in. When this happens, I can’t help but want to scream “I know!”

Now, I kickoff a feedback session by acknowledging one thing I know I need to improve on. Acknowledging a weakness first helps you get the conversation started, so the person you are asking for feedback from doesn’t have to initiate the discussion.

You show that you’re aware of your weaknesses, you’re looking to make improvements, and you are looking to them to help you understand where else you could improve.

  1. Make the feedback giver comfortable

When asking for feedback, we start thinking things like “what will they say,” “how will I react,” and “what if I disagree?” In order to receive feedback, we need to think about how we can make the experience more comfortable for the feedback giver so it is easier for that person to provide open feedback.

Be open to the feedback and show them that you’re entrusting them to help you grow. Be approachable and show that you really value their opinion. Finally, remember to thank them for taking the time to provide a thoughtful response.

When you ask for feedback, it puts a lot of pressure on the person from whom you’re requesting this information, which can result in radio silence or no follow-up.

If you really want feedback, you need to take control of the conversation and do everything you can to make it easier for the person to actually provide feedback. Start with your closest colleagues, only ask for a few pieces of feedback, provide the rationale behind your request, kick off the discussion with an area you’re already working on, and make sure the feedback giver is comfortable.

These will all ensure you walk away with the information you need to reach the next level of your career.


Paige Kassalen

Paige Kassalen loves to put her creativity to use by solving problems in emerging technical fields, and has been an IEEE member since 2012. After graduating with a degree in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech in 2015, Kassalen began her career with Covestro LLC. in 2015, and soon became the only American engineer working with Solar Impulse 2, the first solar-powered airplane to circumnavigate the globe. This role landed Kassalen a spot on the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 list along with feature articles in Glamour, Fast Company and the Huffington Post. After Solar Impulse, Kassalen has helped Covestro and JPMorgan Chase develop and implement strategies to embrace a range of emerging technology trends from autonomous vehicles to machine learning. In 2020, Kassalen received a Master of Information Systems Management degree from Carnegie Mellon University and now uses her problem-solving skills at an artificial intelligence startup, CrowdAI, where she leads the implementation of computer vision solutions for existing commercial customers.

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