As a recent grad, feedback is crucial to my growth as a young professional. From what I’ve heard from peers, most companies have rigid structures in place to ensure that recent college graduates receive an abundance of feedback during their first few years. Everything from weekly one-on-one meetings to quarterly surveys to intense performance reviews.
The pros and cons of working for a hands-off company
The team I work for, however, prides itself on the varied opinions of its staff. They are loath to overly influence recent college grads, encouraging them to form their own opinions in order to extract unique investment pitches, which is a concept I admire. However, this hands-off attitude also means that feedback is rare. Even when I ask for it repeatedly, my superiors rarely offer advice, since the structure of our team demands that I research, analyze, and form my own opinions. The larger company that my team works under has operated under an annual performance review format (though just this past year they switched to semi-annual), but I find that this format is better suited to mid-career professionals than recent college grads, particularly in comparison to what many of my peers are used to.
Learning how to self-motivate
Moreover, after a lifetime of academia, where feedback is freely given, I struggled to find my footing post-grad. I didn’t know what to strive for, or how to improve, and it felt difficult to motivate myself as a result. I never had one-on-ones with my boss in which I could express these doubts, either. Given that this was my workplace culture, I knew I had to find a way to goal-set despite it, if not to progress in this role then at the very least to develop my career.
Starting small: networking at work
The first thing I did was network. First, I started small, reaching out to colleagues on my team and asking for their feedback or advice. I gradually began to seek out others in my company, too, even if their work was different. I did this by joining focus groups and attending company-wide events in which I strove to meet as many new faces as I could. I followed up with coffee invitations and group lunches, asking for tips on navigating a small team within a larger company or advice on advancing as a woman in finance.
Even if others didn’t do the exact work I did, I found they still had valuable insights for me, particularly since I was new to the working world. My networking efforts also had an unexpected side effect: I made friends. Not close friends, mind you, but friendly colleagues, who made the transition into post-grad life that much easier.
A bigger step: researching a career trajectory
The next thing I did was research growth paths and trajectories in my line of work. I inquired about what previous colleagues in my position had done, looked through LinkedIn to see what the growth path for my title looked like at other companies, and set goals for myself based on that. Given that I am in an entry-level position, it will come as no surprise that the future trajectory for my role — and, really, any entry-level position — is varied. I could go off to law school, pursue a PhD, go to business school, become a project manager, or any other number of possibilities. As such, goal-setting wasn’t as clear-cut as I anticipated. But digging into these paths, alongside further research on mid-level and senior-level positions that I found inspiring, allowed me to more clearly formulate the skills I would need to acquire in my current role to position myself better for the future. Using this as a benchmark, I asked for strategic side projects at my firm and worked towards developing a skill set I was proud of.
The biggest step: looking outside my company
Lastly, I found mentors through outside groups, like college alums or other organizations I became involved in, to get further feedback and advice. My college alum network is large and passionate, so I was able to reach out to many who had similar career trajectories to the ones I sought in order to gain further clarity. I also found mentors through slightly older young professionals, who were able to give me insight on day-to-day workplace difficulties. Through volunteer organizations, I met others in different professions who expanded my thinking regarding the future path I saw for myself. In these ways, I gave myself opportunities to conduct informal informational interviews, both informing the current career I had and future career trajectories I might be able to pursue.
Learning to create structure where there is none
I would still love for a more structured feedback mechanism within my own team. But my company’s unique structure has forced me to look for advice in other ways, which at least means I’ve developed different skills and made more contacts along the way. Even if you’re able to successfully goal-set and motivate yourself at your workplace, it doesn’t hurt to reach out to others, network, and gain a little more outside perspective — it just may be useful in the future.
Keertana Anandraj is a recent college grad living in San Francisco. When she isn’t conducting international macroeconomic research at her day job, you can find her in the spin room or planning her next adventure.
Image via Unsplash