Have you ever asked someone for feedback about your work performance? If not, consider giving it a try. While it can be a terrifying experience (when isn’t asking for improvement suggestions terrifying?), it could change your career — and your life.

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Have you ever asked someone for feedback about your work performance? If not, consider giving it a try. While it can be a terrifying experience (when isn’t asking for improvement suggestions terrifying?), it could change your career.

Earlier in my career, I managed a global integration project that, once completed, would yield a new vice president position — a job I really wanted. During a dinner after an integration meeting, I ended up seated next to the CEO of the division. By dessert, I had worked up the courage to tell him I was interested in the position and I asked if he thought I could do the job.

After scratching his chin for a while, he replied with something I wasn’t expecting: “No, at this time, I don’t think you’d be able to do that job.”

My heart felt like it sank all the way to my feet. After picking myself up off the floor emotionally, I said, “Tell me about that. I’d like to understand why you feel that way.” I didn’t become defensive. I didn’t become angry. I merely sought to understand his reasoning behind the comment.

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He told me there were three areas in which he didn’t think I could do the job, and then explained each. I quickly realized his perception of me didn’t accurately match my skills and experience in two of those areas.

I asked him: “If I can prove my expertise in the first two areas and show you a plan to become an expert in the third area over the next 12 months, would you support me then?” Thankfully, his answer was yes.

Over the next year, I demonstrated my skills and expertise in the areas he had questioned. I also created a development plan for the third area, reviewed it with him for his feedback and then worked my way through each item. When the new job was created and posted online, I applied for the position and went through the rigorous interview process. And guess what? I earned the job.

Without the CEO’s feedback, it’s doubtful I would have gotten the position. I also probably would not have learned this valuable lesson: My perception of myself might not always match the perception others hold of me — and the only way to find out is by asking for feedback.

Asking for constructive criticism can change your career and even your life. Once you have feedback, you can use it to improve yourself or work to change the perception of others.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at lquast@careerwomaninc.com.