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Is Your Perspective on “Criticism” Damaging Your Career Progression?

matthew_collison profile image Matthew Collison Updated on ・4 min read

We had Simon Rogers, a full-stack developer of 15 years on our Podcast this week, and we got onto his list of the most important things to do when you join a new company. As a hiring manager, his #1 tip was to learn how to take criticism properly.

We really want to expand on this conversation because some of us find criticism hard to deal with, and we hope to bring you a more ideal perspective that we know will help you make leaps forward in your career.

Gain an understanding of how criticism makes you feel

Think back to the last time you received criticism for your work from someone who you respect... How does it feel when you re-experience that memory?

  • Do you feel like you simply weren't good enough?
  • Do you feel happy because you can see how you took that criticism on board and grew as a developer?
  • Or perhaps you didn't really care and don't tend to take other people's opinions?

Here's another thought exercise: When you think about asking someone's opinion on your work, what is your initial feeling?

  • Are you excited to see what someone else thinks?
  • Are you deathly afraid that someone's going to find something wrong with what you did?
  • Or does it simply not excite you?

Every person reading this post will have a slightly different reaction to these thought exercises, but what could each reaction mean for you?

  • If you're the type that feels like you're not good enough when you receive criticism and you're afraid to hear what people think, a lot of us think and feel like this. Sometimes, it's just about putting yourself through these situations and allowing yourself to get the value from it over and over again until you don't feel the same fears anymore, or they are at least
  • If you're someone who simply doesn't care what other people think and lack excitement for feedback, that's can be helpful because you shut off bad opinions, but you're missing out on a massive opportunity to make giant leaps in your career because some of those we work with have years of experience, which they're able to distill into tips design to help you understand in a moment what took them all those years. We talk about that more in the next section
  • If you see growth and excitement in every opportunity to get feedback, this is (in our own experience) the best mindset to have for your progression.

Perhaps you have a mix of all three, but the point is, it's important to understand and be aware of your own internal reasons and motivations before you can start to shift your mentality towards criticism. Without an understanding of how we feel at our core, it's hard to make the necessary changes.

Upgrade your perspective: Replace the word "Criticism" with "Mentorship"

There are certain words in every language that have feelings tied to them. The word "Criticism" is one of these words that some deal well with, whereas others are hit with negative feelings almost immediately.

"Mentorship" on the other hand, is a motivating word, for most of us. When we think of someone we respect and want to learn how to be more like them, we view them as mentors.

But all too often we see people who could be viewed as mentors as highly judgemental people who are scrutinizing us and making us feel incompetent, even if there is no evidence of such. This can be caused by a number of things:

  • Impostor Syndrome
  • Being brought up with judgemental family members or friends
  • The person giving the mentorship is actually a judgemental person (we address this in the next section)

When you get to the core of it, every comment about our process, our code or our work (if coming from someone who has more experience than us) is an opportunity to make a jump in your career. It's about taking the personal perspective out of it and see the great advice for what it is.

Ask anyone who is successful as a developer. Most of them will tell you that they learned so little by themselves, and when they joined their first company, they probably learned more in 1 month than they had the entire year prior.

Surrounding yourself with people who are more intelligent than you, who are also happy to distill their experiences into shortcuts for you, is quite possibly the quickest way to progress in your career. Whether it's internships, code bootcamps, online resources or just sitting beside a friend who has more experience than you, using mentorship to your advantage is going to help you make leaps and bounds in your career.

But what if my manager, superior or colleague seems to put me down for everything I do?

As much as it's important to take as many mentorship opportunities as possible, it's just as important to be aware of toxic people. Some people think black and white about everything, spouting things like "Python is the best language and everything else is *#@#", or perhaps whenever you make a mistake, they jump at the chance to say something just to make you feel stupid.

It's about recognizing these types of people and distancing yourself from them - and instead of spending far more time with experienced people who don't have an agenda, who have made years of mistakes that they can help you avoid with 5 minutes of their time.

How well do you deal with criticism?

It may be a vulnerable topic to discuss, but it's one that if we all talked about more, perhaps we'd all adopt better perspectives on the word. We really want to hear from you: how do you feel when you are criticized and do you think your mindset is helping you achieve your long-term goals or hindering your chances?

Interested in topics like this and other mindset & career pointers? Our latest podcast episode might interest you

Simon Rogers is really the inspiration for this post, his points on the top mistakes developers make in their first few weeks at a company provide valuable insights into how to start your job off on the right foot.

If this is something that interests you, you can listen to The Learning Developer's Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on our web player by clicking this link.

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Matthew Collison

@matthew_collison

I run an educational media brand called Skill Pathway, and host The Learning Developers Podcast. Experienced Full-Stack Engineer that wants to change lives and help millions of people into tech.

Skill Pathway

We help budding developers land their dream job. We do this through our free courses, articles, podcasts and tutorials covering a range of topics from mindset, coding skills, career advice and much more.

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As much as it's important to take as many mentorship opportunities as possible, it's just as important to be aware of toxic people.

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