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March image (MH)Even the most self-aware and self-motivated professionals get lulled into set behaviors and hit ceilings. Often, “self-improvement” really starts when someone criticizes or challenges us.

The word criticism has gotten a bad rap. There is a generational shift away from negative feedback of any kind and toward total cheerleading. When did we all get so soft? Receiving input that can help us improve is a gift that we should embrace.

This is why, in an interview context, Evers Legal is not your typical search firm. We are not shy about making specific suggestions for improvement, or relaying candid feedback from clients after interviews. We believe this is the best way to be truly helpful.

A great way to continually improve starts with building up your team of constructive critics. Start with former bosses, professors and co-workers, and add friends with diverse views who care about you. A speaker at the Women of Power and Influence in Law conference last September in Washington, D.C., talked about her five member “Board of Personal Advisors.” She connects with each person twice per year, usually in-person, to discuss professional obstacles to advancement. She credits this exercise to, among other things, getting better at corporate politics.

While a personal board of advisers may sound overly formal, at least let the concept inform some of your conversations. Specifically: ask for and encourage honest observations. Put the people you trust in a safe zone and tell them that you want constructive criticism, and that at times this is far more valuable than pats on the back. Ask them the following questions: Have I developed any bad habits that I might not have noticed myself? Are there technical or people skills I should be improving?

Find truth tellers in your professional network and make them talk.

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