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What is the best way to ask for feedback as an intern?

For my internship I'm working on a project with another intern. Both of our managers are keeping the requirements vague and said they don't want to give too much guidance to see what we can come up with. I totally understand this and like the fact that it's more of a "lets see what you can do" type of project. Recently I asked for feedback on both the project (what the other intern and I have come up with) and my individual performance. But, I didn't really get much feedback besides the usual "you guys are doing great" (I've asked a few times by now). Being online too makes it hard to tell. I can't tell if this is because they don't want to give too much guidance on the project or if they just don't have much to say. My point is, I understand that fact that they don't want to give too much guidance on the project, what I was hoping for was feedback as in: Is what I've done so far what you expected? Do you feel like I could have done better? Do you think I'm applying what I learned well? Are you not giving feedback because you don't have any/you don't want to guide me too much/am I asking too early?

I may just be overthinking this but I'm not sure what's the best way to say all these things in a formal way. How can I ask something like this? #career #internship


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Arshia’s Answer

Dear Sam,

Thank you for your question. I can see that this situation has been tough for you as you've been looking for guidance and feedback. There are different types of management styles that managers often follow, and I can understand that the lack of feedback has been frustrating. My advice is to set up a virtual face-to-face meeting with your manager and let them know that you are happy with the progress on your project but would like additional formal feedback based on your needs as it relates to your project. Asking for feedback directly via a face-to-face meeting may be more beneficial than simply asking via email (if you haven't already done so).

On the other hand, maybe take your manager's word regarding the fact that you're indeed doing a great job. Although frustrating that the feedback isn't detailed or substantive, it is a validation that you're doing well, and hopefully your work is appreciated.

Please feel free to follow up with me via the comments if I can be of additional help.

AM

Arshia recommends the following next steps:

Set up face-to-face meeting with manager requesting feedback

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Joe’s Answer

One thing caught my attention in our original post. The fact that your managers are keeping "requirements vague". As a software engineer of over 40 years, one thing that I learned a long time ago is that any software deliverable MUST start with requirements. Without a clear understanding of the "what" is needed, it is impossible to design and implement the "how". Any software deliverable must have success criteria that defines "done". Without it, you're never sure if you have delivered what is needed/wanted and you're leaving it up to luck. Not a good plan.

Now, having said that, are you sure that you're managers aren't subtly asking you to go off and determine the requirements? That's also possible. So, my suggestion would be to ask your managers if they want you to develop the requirements as part of your project, because without requirements, you have no way of knowing that you're building what they want, and they have no objective way of determining if you've delivered what they asked for.

Good luck, hope this helps.

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Nathan’s Answer

Sam, I am currently leading a team of 11 interns for the summer. They have a specific project that they are working on, but I have carved out specific times throughout the summer to give each of them individual feedback. Some of them are looking for more targeted feedback than others. If you have some specific things that you are wanting to hear feedback on, I would recommend being as direct as possible. Don't be afraid to ask those exact questions that you want answered. Take the initiative to see if they will be willing to have a feedback session with you and put the agenda with the questions in the invite. Good luck!

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James’s Answer

Hi Sam!

My job is to develop newly hired employees and insure that they know about our company, our products, and services. I help them develop their professional skills and learn the best ways to communicate with customers. Currently I am leading a team of interns through a 12 week internship. So I can really relate with where you are at right now.

My team of 11 are pretty great. And it is difficult to give them constructive critiques on their performance. Like your manager, I too end up saying "You are doing great." a lot. While that is the honest truth, I understand that they want to grow their skills and need some help identifying areas to work on. For some of them, I really cannot point out anything they are not doing well. For others, they already know and are focused on the areas they need to improve. When it comes to the projects for the internship, I would agree with your managers hands off approach. For those of us that lead internships, we want to see the innovative ways you solve problems. If we give too much feedback early on, it could stifle that.

Now, with all of that said, there are a few ways you can get the feedback you are seeking. You definitely need to set up a 1x1 meeting with your manager. I would recommend preparing for that with a few questions. Some questions you might ask are:

"Where would you rank me against other interns, both current and in past groups."
"How does my project compare to previous projects?"
"What do I need to change to be the best intern you have ever worked with?"
"What does my project need to be the best you have ever seen?"
"If my internship ended today, would you offer me a job right now?"

And follow those up with "Why is that?" The "Why?" questions will help you dig a little deeper and get more of the feedback you are looking for. For managers that are overly cautious about being too critical, this will give them a way to provide direct feedback to you without being critical. You may have to reassure them that you want, and can handle, negative feedback. Even if they feel it may be "nitpicky".

I hope that helps. Good luck with your internship!

James recommends the following next steps:

Prepare some questions that will open the feedback conversation.
Schedule a 1x1 meeting with your managers.
Accept their feedback, even if it is not exactly what you are looking for. You may just actually be that great!

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Brandon’s Answer

For some internships they can have many different methods that they use to test and see the value in their interns by seeing what they create/do with their respective projects. From what I am able to grasp in your question, there isn't much feedback with your (and the other person's) project. Its hard to gove advice for this scenario since it appears to be complicated due to it being online. Something that I think you could do is perhaps ask for general advice such as asking the internship manager for their opinion on your project or ask for some advice on how to improve your work. Generally people will be honest and respect the straightforward questions you ask since it is much better to ask questions earlier rather than wait for a problem to arise that would be difficult to solve later. I hope this helps.

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Mariam’s Answer

Hi Sam,

Thanks for your question! Asking for feedback can feel daunting and difficult in some situations so I understand where you're coming from. From my experience, internship and full-time, asking for specific feedback is usually helpful. For instance, if you maybe struggled on some part of the project you are working on and would like some help with it, you can ask for help in the form of feedback to kill two birds with one stone. You might ask whether the data looks right on a slide if you're working on a presentation for your manager or co-owned project. Being specific just omits opportunities for vague answers which might help to solve the issue of you not obtaining great feedback from your manager.

I hope that's helpful!

Best,
Mariam

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Annie’s Answer

Hi Sam!

I definitely know how you feel in this situation. In previous internships, I found it best to reach out to my manager, and ask for an informal performance review. If it's helpful, you can also ask to make them semi-regular so that you feel like you're up to date with their feedback. Most companies have forms that employees need to fill out that answer those specific questions for formal performance reviews, so maybe you can ask your manager if something like that is available.

If you're looking for specific feedback on your work, I recommend asking direct questions. If there's anything you want your manager to take a look at within your work, point it out to them and ask if they have any feedback. It also is helpful to ask other professionals on the team. If you can set up a 1:1 with them to go over any advice or feedback with them, I'm sure they'd be happy to help out.

Good luck!

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Laura’s Answer

In addition to all the other great answers, below are a couple things that I’ve found work really well when I'm trying to get feedback:

1. If you’re having trouble getting a lot of helpful feedback from your manager, peer feedback is really valuable too. You can try asking some of your other team members or your project stakeholders for their feedback and see if they have anything to add.

2. Ask for constructive feedback – I’ve found that if you specifically tell someone that you’re looking for ways to improve, they’re more likely to give ideas. It helps if you share your own feedback of yourself too. For example, if you broadly ask, “how am I doing?” someone is likely to just say “great!” But, if you say “I think this project is going well, but I think I spoke too fast in our last presentation so I might’ve confused some people. What did you think? I’d love to hear your input so I can improve next time”

3. Ask for feedback on specific areas. Taking the example above, you can tell your manager that one of your goals is to get better at presentations. Then after your next presentation, you can ask how it went.

I hope this helps! Good luck!

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Preneeta’s Answer

Some of the ways to effectively ask for feedback could be to be precise in your questions; make sure you listen to learn; clarify points if you don't always understand the feedback and most importantly, make sure you commit to changes and see it through. Good luck!

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Pooja’s Answer

As an intern, it can be slight intimidating to ask for the feedback- I think, it is always a good idea to have a straight conversation and ask "how am I doing? What can I do to improve, and how can I go about doing so? ". This will prompt a dialogue for feedback session.

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