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How to Make a Great Impression in Your Performance Review

Topics: Career Advice
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Performance reviews are nerve-wracking. We know it. Usually we know our performance review is looming, but we procrastinate, which results in being under prepared.

Company-wide performance reviews typically happen at the same time of year. If you’re new to your firm, it’s smart to ask when that cycle kicks into gear. If you’ve been at the company for a while, or been through the process before, there’s no excuse for not being prepared for what’s to come.

According to a recent survey, nearly one in four millennial employees have called in sick because they were anxious about receiving their performance review. This is not a strategy I would recommend, but the truth is anxiety is real and few of us are immune to it.

The bottom line is this. Performance reviews are not something you should attempt to hide from or skip over as fast as you can. Instead, the smartest thing you can do for your career is to embrace the opportunity to complete your own self-assessment and communicate your achievements.

Here are six ways to help set yourself up for success:

Set a goal to get ahead of the game

You should avoid leaving it until the last minute to complete your review document. Instead, set aside time well in advance to collate, review, edit, refine and proofread your performance review documents before you submit them. Giving yourself ample time to think over the past year is crucial.

Gather proof points that demonstrate the value you deliver through being effective at your role. Trust me, it takes more time than you think to remember what you did and even longer to present your achievements clearly, coherently and with impact.

Treat your review meeting like it’s a job interview

If you’re nervous about reviewing your performance with your manager, cast your mind back to when you interviewed for the position you are currently in. Now’s the time to apply the same approach to your review meeting.

Be mindful of your demeanor, your body language and how you communicate during the meeting.  Don’t forget to smile either! The best thing you can do in your performance review is to bring a confident, positive, problem solving attitude to the process. Putting yourself back into job interview mode will encourage you to articulate your achievements over the past year.

Be ready to talk about your future goals

Modesty is an admirable quality, but your performance review is not the time to be shy. This meeting is likely to only happen once a year. This is your chance to convey to your manager how you contribute and what you want to do next.

Don’t cut corners by glossing over your goals. Your career matters. Your accomplishments matter. The areas you want to develop and grow into matter. Be ready to discuss them positively and enthusiastically with your manager.

Be ready to get real about what you’ve learned along the way

If something didn’t work out for you, don’t be afraid to talk about what you learned as a result. Showing how you were able to pivot from a low point makes a positive impression. It reinforces your commitment to your professional development and growth, as well as your problem-solving instincts.

Most of us think our performance review is the time to show just how brilliant we are. That’s true, but the reality is no one is flawless. Everyone learns from mistakes. That’s how we grow, evolve and develop into smarter, experienced professionals in our field.

Avoid making assumptions

It can be easy to assume your boss will remember all the good things you’ve brought to the table or, conversely that your boss is out to get you. Assumptions can often be wrong.

Remember, your manager is likely to have more than one person to think about during a very busy workday. On top of that, their own deadlines, deliverables and resulting headaches will be front of mind always. Even if you are their sole direct report, your manager will not necessarily know what you consider to be your biggest accomplishments, or your biggest weaknesses.

Recollection and perception is always variable from person to person. In addition, things that consistently go well are often less memorable than the times when something goes horribly wrong. Be ready to remind your manager about your highlights of the year and be ready to expand on why they stand out and how you’ve contributed to the company’s performance as a result.

Be prepared to talk salary

In advance of your performance review, do your research. Understand the market value for your expertise and years of experience. Understand if your company has had a profitable year and if your department or division’s performance is in line with those metrics.

Then you should wait. Don’t bring up your desire for a larger salary at the beginning of your performance review. It’s equally important to listen as it is to communicate positively. You should listen to your manager closely during the meeting, acknowledge the feedback you receive and document the action items that may be discussed as a result.

If your performance review was positive, and if you are closing the meeting and your manager has not already discussed salary, you should bring the topic up. If the feedback on your performance has been good, you should be ready to ask your manager to review your salary with you. If your review has been stellar you have an even stronger case. Speak up. Even if it requires a follow up meeting to discuss in more detail, be ready to make the ask.

Octavia Goredema is the founder and editor of Twenty Ten Talent, a career resource for talented young black women.  Find her on Twitter at @OctaviaGoredema.

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Octavia Goredema
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