And then there's an entire separate piece - the self-assessment. How good does this person think they are? And again this is all over the map. There are people who are convinced they're a mistake waiting to happen, and people who think they're probably pretty good. Then there's the cohort that can be heard saying at cocktail parties, "Well, because I'm very good at what I do." And lastly there's the gang that you hopefully only ever hear rumor of, who are convinced they are the best (whatever profession they are) that the world has ever seen.
The correlation between actual quality of work and perceived quality of work is very small.
So two questions:
- Who cares?
- How do we overcome this, assuming someone cares?
The short answer to the "who cares" question is: whoever is judging themselves. If my self-assessment is wrong, I will either be underestimating my contributions, or I'll be setting expectations higher than anything I can possibly meet. Underestimating means I don't get that job or that plum assignment I want. Overestimating... well... we call those "bad hires". It's okay to be a little wrong - we're probably all a little wrong - but when you get way off there's a problem. And you'll start to see it: you'll be passed up for things you could do easily; or you'll be hit with a string of disappointing performance reviews.
So how do we avoid this erroneous self-assessment trap?
First listen. You'll hear about how you're doing. Do you keep getting the hard bugs thrown your way? Do you get "good find" comments? Got a raise or a title bump? That's a sign you're probably not half bad. Go with it. Alternatively, are your performance reviews not as good as you would expect? Do you keep getting asked to redo work or explain your assertions? You may not be as good as you think you are.
Avoid extreme pitches. Are you billing yourself as "tester extraordinaire"? That's an awfully high bar to cross. You might want to back off that a bit.
Ask someone you trust. Find someone you trust - a colleague or a boss - and ask them how good you really are. It'll take a little convincing to get them to be blunt, but it's invaluable.
Your face on the world is first your self-assessment and second your actual work. Make sure your self-assessment gives you the opportunities you deserve and sets you up for success.