When it’s time for a year-end performance review, the best advice is this: Be prepared. As in, be prepared to talk about yourself, your accomplishments, where you can improve and your plan for moving forward. Granted, exactly how the process unfolds will vary depending on the size and scope of the review. Do you have regular check-ins with your supervisor? Is there a quarterly review in place? Is there a 360 review process that includes peer feedback? Or is this one of those rare face-to-face meetings you have with your boss?
All of that and more will impact how you proceed. But, this much is true: The right prep will ensure you walk out of that meeting knowing you made the best case for yourself. To help you figure out exactly how to best prepare, we asked career experts for their advice on how to get the most out of your end-of-year review. The following tips should make your year-end review much, much easier.
“The point here is not to be caught off guard,” Zach Rosner, former head of people operations at companies like MeUndies and Everlane said. “It’s your life and your professional performance; you should know it better than anybody, and understand how to appreciate the areas of opportunity as well as the ways you kicked butt.”
In other words, do a self-evaluation for yourself (regardless of whether your company requires one). Set time aside before the review for you to carefully look over your work during the past few months. Go through the personal goals you previously set. Ask yourself: How has your performance stacked up against them? Where have your struggled? Have there been unexpected challenges? In what areas have you most shined?
Knowing the answers to these (and more) questions, will mean you’re less likely to be on the defense if your supervisor brings up less-than-stellar qualities. It will also help you redirect the conversation toward your highlights as an employee.
In an ideal world, all of us have very capable managers and supervisors. You know, the kind who are adept at giving constructive feedback and who are 100 percent on top of the review process. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. That’s why the onus is on you, to approach the subject with your boss if they’ve been letting the review slide by. Take the initiative and ask for a meeting to show you’re proactive, Holly Caplan, a career coach and author of Surviving the Dick Clique: A Girl’s Guide to Surviving the Male Dominated Corporate World, said.Caplan suggests opening the conversation with, “I know end of year is coming up and I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve done and what I’ve learned.”
Once you’re having the conversation, make it clear you’re ready to approach everything in a professional manner. As in, you’re not one to let constructive feedback ruffle your feathers. “Open the door for your manager by saying, ‘Hey, if there’s something I really need to be working on, or if there’s something that I really need to be doing better, I want you to tell me,'” Mikaila Turman, director of people, Goodhire, said. “That’s the purpose of the review period, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has a manager that feels comfortable in doing that. Open the door for them so that you can get better at your job, because you have the feedback that you need.”
In lieu of a “to-do” list, try keeping a “done” list, Alexandra Dickinson, membership strategy lead at SoFi, said.Ideally, this is a running list that you add to throughout the year so that by the time you have a review it’s simply a matter of going through your personal notes and picking the standout achievements. “I just have an Evernote open all the time, and every time I accomplish some sort of major task, like I pitched this piece of new business, or I sent a recommendation on a new process to my manager, or whatever thing, I will write a bullet point in Evernote,” Dickinson said. She further narrows down the list on a weekly basis so that big and small wins aren’t glossed over. “By the time I get to the end of the quarter, the end of the half, end of the year, I can look back at my key accomplishments. I don’t have to be like, ‘What have I been doing for the last six months?'”
If you’re working in a data-rich role, Caplan advises printing out the numbers on a quarterly basis. Look at what accounts you’ve closed, or contracts you’ve negotiated. Keep it all in a physical folder (or on your desktop) and then, when presenting, go through the timeline of events. “Do it in chronological order,” Caplan said. “You can map out what you’ve done so they can see the storyline.”
And, above all, don’t skip the opportunity to back up your story and wins with the right data points.
Address any previous feedback during your end-of-year review, regardless of how formal or informal the feedback.”For instance, if you were told that you might want to focus more on clear email communication, be prepared to discuss how you’ve done exactly that and have the emails ready,” Rosner said. “Or if you were behind deadlines on a regular basis, get ready to bust out the calendar and highlight how you’ve been ahead of every deadline since that review. Measurable progress, and proof that you are taking proactive steps to integrate feedback when applicable, is key.”
“It doesn’t look good to be blaming other people,” Dickinson said. “There’s a difference between placing blame versus identifying what the problems were that held you back from achieving your goal.” For instance, maybe you struggled at executing a project when you were paired with a certain colleague. Maybe you hated this person’s guts and the resulting communication between you two was strained.
But, sit back and ask yourself how you could have handled the situation differently. Was it a situation where more support from the team could have helped? Was this a request you could have communicated clearly and earlier? Identify the problems in the system, instead of singling out individuals.
This last bit of advice is key: circle back to how you’re helping the company. You could excel in one area of your job and be loved by your coworkers. While that’s all good and great, you always want to convey that you’re a valuable asset to the company. To that end, end your review by connecting the dots for your supervisor.
For instance: How is your success helping fulfill a company objective? Are you helping drive revenue? Bring in new clients? Ensure projects are on track and meeting deadlines? Are you recruiting or training new employees? If your work seems a bit removed from the greater company goals, focus on your team. How are you, as an employee, making things easier, better, more efficient and fruitful for your coworkers?
In bringing it back full circle, you’ll present yourself as not just a stellar employee, but a crucial team player. And that’s gold.