The craziness of the previous year is behind us. It’s time for that anxiety-inducing professional pastime known as the performance review. Rather than getting sidetracked with dread and worry, choose to focus on the positive aspects of what a performance review can really do for your career.
An annual review is the one time in 365 days’ worth of work, projects, and tasks that you have your manager’s complete focus. It’s an opportunity to present yourself and all your accomplishments in a positive light. Think of it as an hour or so long ad campaign, and you are the commodity.
Reviews have significant impact on pay and your advancement within a company. Take the time to prepare for yours by following these simple steps.
Step 1: Know Your Role
Before you can even start to analyze your performance, you must know your specific role and the responsibilities assigned to you. Companies grow and develop rapidly; your unique responsibilities may have shifted over the last year. Start with a clear definition of your job title and job description. Reach out to your HR resources or contact your manager in advance to establish the parameters associated with your job.
Step 2: Develop A Timeline Of Your Accomplishments
A well-maintained list of work-related accomplishments will make the review-writing process much easier. If you are not already keeping track of your achievements, use your email as a resource. Scan your inbox to be reminded of key projects and how you handled them with professionalism. You can even copy and paste particularly noteworthy correspondences into your review paperwork. For next year’s review, consider saving particular emails that highlight positive feedback from peers, business partners, or your supervisor. Stay organized by creating a folder on your desktop where you can easily store these types of personal accolades.
Step 3: Be Honest About How You Can Improve
There is always room for improvement when it comes to job performance. Supervisors appreciate an employee who can be honest and candid. Rather than focusing on the negative aspects of your performance over the past year, choose to highlight areas that might have been “missed opportunities.” Be sure to mention specific hurdles that impacted your decision-making. Focus on the lessons you learned and how you plan to apply a new approach in the future. Acknowledging where you could improve shows self-awareness and indicates that you are a highly motivated employee.
Step 4: Establish Goals For The Upcoming Year
Most review paperwork requires that you set goals for the upcoming year. If your company does not require this of you, do it on your own. Present them to your supervisor to ensure you are in agreement about where your time and efforts should be spent. Be sure to set goals that are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Sensitive. Don’t hesitate to establish new goals should your role and responsibilities change. Realign or tweak your goals as the year progresses.
Step 4: Keep Emotion Out Of It
Meeting with your supervisor to discuss your performance can be stressful—especially if the two of you don’t have a great working relationship. Try your best to not let emotion overrule your ability to have an open dialogue. Remember to use declarative statements that are fact-based. Avoid “I feel”, “I think”, and “I didn’t”. If you find that you are particularly apprehensive about your review, consider writing an outline of all of the items you want to discuss. Should you get nervous during your meeting, you can refer to your notes to quickly get back on track.
Step 5: Take Notes
Take notes during your review. This is an indication that you are highly engaged and that you value the feedback you are being given. If you are unclear about any of the information you received, use your notes to craft an email to your supervisor after the fact. Reference a statement he or she made, and request some additional clarification. Your notes can also help you as you establish personal goals for the upcoming year.
Step 6: Get What You Need
The opportunity to discuss your performance rarely happens, so be sure that when your review concludes, you have the feedback you need to prepare yourself for the upcoming year. If you find that your supervisor seems to be reading verbatim from your paperwork, engage him or her by asking questions. Request specific examples, ask for more detail, and don’t be afraid to simply admit you don’t understand. Performance reviews are two-sided. There might be things you need to ask your supervisor to change in order to execute your tasks more efficiently. Don’t be afraid to ask.
Step 7: Give Back
Lastly, even though a performance review is supposed to be all about you, take a moment to acknowledge the efforts of your boss. Chances are they don’t particularly look forward to performance reviews either. Consider leaving a thoughtful thank you note on their desk. It’s a simple extra step, but it carries more personal sentiment and appreciation than an email. And isn’t that what this whole review process is about, anyway—setting yourself apart by the distinctive things you do?