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How to Prepare for Your Next Performance Review

For many people, performance reviews can be stressful experience, particularly if you’re unsure if you’ve met your boss’s expectations. However, if you go into the performance review prepared, it can be a valuable way to propel your career to the next level.

Below are some tips to help you optimize your review and enter the new year on the right foot:

Plan Ahead

Planning for a mid-year or year-end performance review should really start as soon as you meet with your manager for the first time at a new job, or just after you’ve finished a prior performance review to prepare for the performance year ahead at your existing job. Ask your manager what their expectations are for the year ahead to ensure that you align your priorities with their priorities so that there are no surprises down the road when you have your performance review.

Document All Accomplishments

Write down all verbal and written accolades from your manager, peers and clients so that when you are asked to conduct a self-assessment, you have an accurate and comprehensive list. Where have you excelled? What challenges have you overcome? Have you taken on more responsibility, bigger projects or more valuable clients for the organization? If you haven’t documented this information in a while, now’s the time to do so.

Become Familiar with the Process

Check with your boss or human resources representative to find out how the company conducts its evaluations and what’s expected of you.

Conduct a Self-Assessment

As mentioned in the “Plan Ahead” step above, use your list of documented achievements and positive feedback as part of your self-assessment process. Take time to honestly evaluate your performance for the past year. Which goals did you meet, exceed or fall a little short on? Everyone has room for improvement, and your boss will be interested in knowing what areas of improvement you’d like to focus on in the future.

Review Your Last Performance Review

Has the scope of responsibility in your role changed from the last time you were reviewed? Do you have more direct reports or has your boss changed? Did you accomplish specific training relevant to your job or did you just complete a degree or certification? If your boss changed during the performance year, ask your departing manager for documentation of your performance through the time they hand off responsibility to your new manager so that there are no gaps of assessment during your review. Read through your previous evaluation and pay special attention to the comments left by your manager. How has this feedback influenced your work over the past year?

Discuss Your Career Objectives

As part of the discussion, some managers may ask you what your career goals are, and if they don’t, feel free to broach the topic proactively after your manager has finished his/her objectives for the conversation. Managers like employees who show initiative and a level of ambition, so be prepared to speak intelligently about the skills you’d like to build upon or the experience you’d like to obtain. Even if you’re comfortable in your current role and don’t want to climb the career latter, research the skills that you will need to remain competitive in your current role and discuss this with your current manager.

Create Objectives for the Discussion

What are you looking to get out of this conversation? If you’re uncertain how you stack up against your peers, this is your opportunity to ask for direct feedback. If your focus has been on improving a particular skillset, ask your manager if you’ve met your goal.

Don’t expect your manager to do all the work in the conversation. Bring a list of questions or topics you’d like to cover during the course of your review.

If you’re planning to ask for a raise, reach out to your human resources representative to find out when the company typically reviews employees’ compensation packages. Some organizations separate the performance review conversation from the compensation conversation so as not to affect how employees and managers rate each other or impede an open conversation about the employee’s performance.

Be Prepared for Constructive Feedback

No one is perfect, so be prepared to hear constructive feedback from your manager. Don’t take the constructive feedback personally, and ask your manager for examples of situations that tie back to their constructive feedback and use the examples as a foundation for creating actionable steps to improve upon in the next performance year.

Determine Next Steps

Before the meeting ends, discuss actionable next steps. If you’re assigned any follow-up items, make sure you complete them in a timely manner.