At the calendar year comes to a close, many workers start to think about their annual performance reviews. This important meeting can strike fear in the hearts of many an employee, but a year-end evaluation doesn’t have to be an exercise in anxiety. Instead of scrambling to dodge a barrage of criticism, make it a positive experience that inspires you to improve your performance and advance your career.
Here are some tips on how to productively participate in the review process:
- Ask some questions of your own. When is your next performance review scheduled? What will be on the docket the next time it’s your turn? If you don’t have definitive answers to these questions, ask your manager. You want to go into your review conversation as prepared as possible.
- Know the score going in. Any review situation will be better if you know the criteria by which you will be evaluated. This is a time to think back on any goals that were set for you, objectives you were assigned, and responsibilities that were put on your plate. List these different items so that you may assess how you have done since your last review period.
- Review yourself first. Now that you have written down your goals, objectives, and assigned responsibilities, it’s time to take a long, hard look at how you have fared since your last review. Be honest with yourself as you go through the list to determine whether you have delivered on your promises and attained whatever results your manager hoped you would achieve. Flesh out your list of tasks and goals with specifics on how far you have gotten with them; achievements or accomplishments you have secured; and valid explanations for any shortcomings.
- Come up with a plan for any deficiencies. Most managers will tell you that they are willing to look more kindly on missed targets if an aggressive plan is in place to reach them in the near future. Now that you have identified weak areas in your performance, draw up a succinct plan of attack for reaching your unmet goals. Prepare a brief series of points you would like to make to your boss, describing what resources you lack or what kind of additional support you require to meet these goals.
- Highlight any and all achievements. Learn to become your own advocate. Your performance review is an opportunity for you to sing your praises and bring your boss’s attention to all of the things you have delivered on. If you can track these to your goals, all the better, but don’t be dissuaded from delineating successes that might not have been explicitly laid out for you. We often do things in our professional lives that go above and beyond our formal job duties, and your performance review is the perfect opportunity to make your manager fully aware of the positive contributions you make to the company.
- Crunch some numbers. Just saying you have done good work is not enough. Talk in terms of the quantifiable, remunerative effects your labors have had on the company. Have you conducted business that has brought in money? Calculate exactly how your efforts have improved the company’s bottom line. Your performance review is no time to be shy; chances are your manager won’t take the time to quantify your personal contributions in this manner, so the onus is on you to show just how you contribute.
- Set some goals. If you feel that your performance has been overwhelmingly positive, the review is the ideal time to lobby for a raise or a promotion. In addition, if you are interested in growing your responsibilities or branching out your duties, you should mention this during your meeting. Better yet, include this request in a pre-review memo to your manager so he or she can factor your requests into the evaluation. If you are savvy enough to plant these seeds for your own professional development, then you are already justifying why the company should take notice of you.
Keep in mind that your performance review, whether overwhelmingly positive or somewhat disappointing, is always a great opportunity to learn, grow, and move forward in your career. Read Learning from Performance Reviews for some useful pointers on getting as much out of this important encounter that you can.