Ask the intern: How do I deal with criticism at my internship?
Hi Sugar, my name is Lewis and I’m currently doing a 10-week finance internship in Hong Kong. I’m really enjoying my experience so far and I feel like I am developing professionally through my placement. I’m learning a lot every day and I’m getting a lot of insight into my future career field. My supervisor gives me a lot of feedback on my work which is very helpful. However, when it involved criticism I sometimes find it hard to deal with. I’m sure I’m not the only person who struggles with this. Could you possibly give me some guidance on how to deal with criticism in the workplace? -Lewis.
Hi Lewis! First of all, I’m glad you’re finding your internship in Hong Kong so beneficial and enjoyable! You’re right in saying that it’s not uncommon to struggle with dealing with criticism. When I first started my internship in The Intern Group Latin American office, I found criticism hard to take onboard. It definitely gets easier the more you’re in a working environment.
It’s also important to remind yourself that this may be one of the first times you’ve had to deal with criticism. As a student, most criticism you receive is written and accompanied with a lot of praise. This makes it easier to process and react to. Criticism, when constructive, can actually be very positive for your progression. I have compiled my five top tips on how to deal with criticism below. This way you can really make the most of your internship!
1. Really listen to feedback
Often, your natural reaction to negative feedback is to close yourself off from it. This is a self-preservation tactic and although it may feel like the right way to deal with criticism, it’s not. It is essential to really listen to criticism and take it onboard. If your supervisor gives you feedback orally, it’s a good idea to make notes that you can refer back to.
I would also recommend making a document or having a separate notebook where you can keep all your feedback together. This way you can retain it and refrain from making similar mistakes. This can actually help limit mistakes you make and therefore criticism you receive.
2. Don’t take it personally
For high-achievers and perfectionists, criticism can be particularly hard to hear. Your supervisor obviously wants you to care about your feedback, but it’s important to not let it affect you too much. Negative feedback should never impact your confidence or self-esteem. Remember that it is never a criticism of you as a person – it’s about your work.
If you feel like it does affect you, I find it’s helpful to remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes, everyone starts as a beginner and that mistakes are often necessary to improve. You can only act on criticism if you don’t take it too personally.
3. If you’re unsure, it’s always better to ask
If you receive criticism that you don’t fully understand, it is always best to bring it up with your supervisor as soon as possible. For every piece of criticism, there should be a solution. So if you don’t understand the criticism, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to find a solution. Your supervisor would much rather take the extra time to explain than have you ignore what they’ve said. If you ignore the criticism, you will probably carry on making the same mistakes.
4. Put a solution into action immediately
This point is potentially the most important piece of advice to consider. There is no point in your supervisor giving you feedback if it doesn’t result in a change in your work. It may be necessary to devise a solution jointly with your supervisor. Or the solution may be apparent right away. Either way, it’s important to keep the solution in mind as you carry out your work. This way you can really ensure you have resolved whatever issue had arisen.
5. Control your immediate reaction
The way you interact with your boss when they are giving you negative feedback is really important. If you react in a bad way, your supervisor may think you’re not the right fit for their team. The main ways people get it wrong when reacting to criticism are acting defensive, making excuses or flat out rejecting what they’re being told. While these are often the first reactions that come to us, it is key to reflect on them first and then react more positively.
For example, it is fine to carefully explain why or how you made a mistake as long as you first agree that you made one and then propose a solution. Rejecting criticism is never a good idea, even if you think it is wrong. Being confrontational with your supervisor goes against good working behaviour. Apologizing, making note of criticism and proposing solutions or new ways of working is generally a good procedure to follow.
Now you know how to deal with criticism at your internship, apply today to launch your career abroad.