For many businesses, March is a season for bonuses and pay raises. So I’ve spent the last few weeks listening to a number of my peers discussing performance reviews. Some of them were pleased. Some were not so pleased. A few are still in recovery mode. Nearly all of them were nervous in the weeks leading up to them.
For the lucky few who have never had a performance review, it is a frank discussion about one’s contributions to the business, which can leads to talks about compensation. As you can imagine, performance reviews can cause a fair amount of anxiety, particularly when you don’t know what to expect. What if it goes badly? What if your salary isn’t what you thought it should be? How do you navigate this uncomfortable conversation?
I’ve mentioned before that I am not one for self-promotion. However, I don’t worry too much about performance reviews. Performance reviews aren’t about self-promotion at all. Performance reviews are about preparation. And if you make a habit out of honest self-assessment and marking your personal and professional growth, you will be well-armed for any performance review.
A good review begins months beforehand when you set goals. Your goals should be relevant and measurable. Goals that are relevant to your career contribute to your professional development. Measurability gives you a way to prove your good work without ambiguity. You and your managers will know whether or not you’ve met them prior to your review. Depending on where you work, you might have a performance management system in place wherein you and your supervisor determine your goals. If not, now is the perfect time to sit down with your supervisor and create them. You will only look ambitious and enthusiastic for doing so.
One of the best career tips I’ve ever received is to create a “Yay Me” file. If that sounds silly, re-title it as you please and do it anyway because it’s a genius idea. The file contains any accolade, kudos, thank you letter or what have you that illustrates what a good job you’ve done. This is great for people who don’t feel comfortable talking about their accomplishments. The file will do all the talking for you. Side note – I the Yay Me file provides handy reassurance for those “OMFG-what-am-I-doing-this-moment-is-too-big-for-me” career meltdown moments that some of us are prone to in our 20’s.
You should also keep track of things you do outside the scope of your goals. If you are a good employee, chances are you will end up taking on assignments that fall outside the scope of your job description. You should still make sure your accomplishments are marked. Whether it’s cc-ing people on emails or sharing your project updates at meetings, your supervisors should be aware of how much work you do and how much of a team player you are.
A few weeks prior to your review, gather your materials. It’s been a whole year of work and you might have forgotten the awesome things you’ve done. More importantly, the people who determine your salary might have forgotten the awesome things you’ve done. You will have an easier time reminding them when you can easily pull examples. And realizing how much you’ve done over the year will give you the confidence needed to handle your review like a champ.
If you’ve completed your goals and taken stock of your successes, you probably have a good sense of how your review will go before you go into it. Hopefully, you know it’s going to be awesome and you’re right. But let’s say the discussion starts going south. Don’t cry and don’t freak out – that will only make and uncomfortable situation worse. Instead, calmly ask why your assessment isn’t as favorable as you thought. You may be able to contradict your manager’s sentiments with your arsenal of accolades and list of goals accomplished. Or maybe, in hearing your review, you realize there are areas where you need improvement. Don’t take it personally. You are not your job. But use these weaknesses as starting points for your next year of professional development.
Let’s face it – no amount of preparation can eliminate all discomfort from performance reviews. Sitting in a room to be judged is nobody’s favorite thing. But as the old proverb goes, “Forewarned is forearmed,” and a year’s worth of preparation can make a difference in both your confidence and the direction of your review.
A final, unrelated, but nonetheless vital piece of advice – taxes are due next Monday, April 16. This includes any money you owe to the IRS. If you know you won’t get it done, be sure to file an extension ASAP. Either way, get to it if you haven’t already. And make sure you don’t miss out on any awesome deductions.
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