Monday, October 12, 2009

Hitting a moving target

Recently, I told a newly-licensed friend (who's a little older than me) about this blog, and I asked her for her perspective as a just-barely-former intern. What about being an intern did she wish her bosses knew? What advice did she have for other interns? Her comment was one that struck me as a problem that I'm betting many of you may have. Her main problem, she said, was that her boss made excellence a moving and obscured or elusive target, which made it hard for her to excel.

She once asked to do some design on and manage a small project, and her boss said that he was giving it to another intern. His reasoning was that the other intern was really good and sharp, or as he put it, "a rock star." My friend, however, could not seem to get him to articulate what were "rock star" qualities. What exactly was this other intern doing that my friend was not? What did she need to do in order to be a rock star?

Bosses sometimes inadvertently set us up for failure (not just interns, but even us licensed folk) when they are unclear on standards and expectations. You are well within your right to call them on it, by the way. Their precision helps you succeed, which in turn help them and the company succeed. You can say things like:
  • "What am I doing that makes me just 'average' on my performance review?"
  • "What would you consider an excellent job on this?"
  • "What would you consider 'fast' for this type of task?"
  • "I realize it can be hard to describe what you're looking for here, but the clearer you can be will help me do a better job."
  • "Can you describe some ways I could improve this?"
  • "I understand that you're not totally happy with the way I did ______, but I'm not sure what I could have done differently or better. Do you have some specific ways that I could do that?"

1 comment:

  1. This is an interesting point. I am in a situation where the boss changes procedure and policy without notice to anyone and holds everyone responsible. Moving target indeed!