When you were younger and did well on a test or a school project, you may have gotten a letter or numerical grade. If it was really good the teacher may have also written “good job”, “excellent”, or some other complimentary words. If your work was not as good as it could be or there were mistakes or errors, most likely you would find comments marked in red.
Now that we are in the adult world, how do you validate the work you do? How do you know if it is “awesome” or “mediocre”? Do you get gold stars or red marks or nothing at all? I feel many people in the workforce do an “adequate” job because they honestly don’t know how others perceive their work and so it is difficult for them to gauge if they need to step it up or not. The typical annual review that most companies utilize fails in this because to review and comment on a year’s worth of work in maybe an hour conversation is fruitless.
How do you personally overcome this? You may not be able to change the company’s review process but you can certainly “validate” your work much more frequently. To start, schedule a conversation with your supervisor. Outline not only your current workload but also lay out your personal objectives for the next three months. If you feel you could take on more work, be specific in terms of the amount of time you can devote to it and what you hope to learn from it; i.e. if you are looking to get in to a management position, suggest that you be responsible for recruiting the summer intern and then offer to onboard and mentor them. If it is more about learning new skills, recommend that you quasi “job share” with someone else (maybe even in a different department) so that you can expand your knowledge base.
In addition, analyze your boss’ workload as best as you can to determine what responsibilities they could offload to you. Maybe they do not like to write reports so offer to either edit their work, write portions of it, or organize the research. If the boss is receptive, you could also request sitting in on manager meetings or with clients. This gives you a better perspective on how they handle others as well as learn more about the company and/or the clients.
If your supervisor is not willing to let you do any of the above ask them how they view your work. What areas/gaps do they feel that you should improve upon? Try to get them to understand that you want to be in a mentally challenging environment and your current role just doesn’t do it for you anymore. Ask if you can take classes or workshops outside of the office that the company will pay for.
If all else fails to the point of total frustration, list all the things you want to accomplish in the near term (6-9 months). Then develop a compelling Career Summary section that would be showcased at the top of your resume. Detail current work as well as mention items that you want in your next role; i.e. if you want to present more, talk about ANY times that you had to give a report even if it was just to your boss. I am not necessarily suggesting you find a new job right away. Instead this paragraph becomes your mission statement and more importantly it is a reminder of what you want to accomplish in the near term. All of us should feel good about the work we do so this just validates our goals and objectives in our own minds.