5 Ways to Prepare for Your Annual Performance Review

While some people think of an employer’s annual performance review as a perfunctory chore to simply endure, others view it as an important event worthy of significant preparation.

Guess which approach is better for your career?

The feedback you receive from your manager during your evaluation can help you identify strengths, improve weaknesses, establish short- and long-term goals, and ultimately move your career forward. But in order to do so, you must go into the meeting with the right mind-set.

Here are some tips for making the most of this yearly meeting with your manager:

1. Highlight your accomplishments. Don’t expect your boss to have kept track of your achievements. Jog his or her memory by compiling a list of key contributions you made during the past year. And begin making the list well in advance of your review, rather than hastily jotting down whatever comes to mind the day before your meeting.

2. Quantify your contributions. Don’t just cite your successes; link them to the positive impact they’ve had on the company. For example, did you identify an operational inefficiency and then devise a solution that saved your employer money? Were you able to take on additional duties to help the department maintain productivity despite workforce reductions?

3. Be optimistic but realistic. You did everything you possibly could to help your employer during the downturn. And now that the economy is showing some signs of improvement, you’re hoping that all the hard work, the long hours, and the do-whatever-it-takes attitude will finally pay off. And it might. However, unfortunately, the substantial raise you feel you deserve may not be possible at the moment. Therefore, don’t go into the meeting focused solely on your compensation.

4. Think beyond dollar signs. Come to the review with some well-thought-out “Plan B” requests in case a more substantial paycheck isn’t in the cards. Changes in your schedule or your roster of responsibilities can boost your job satisfaction–and will often be easier for your manager to implement. If work-life balance is a top priority, for example, you might ask for the opportunity to telecommute on occasion or for more flexible work hours. When making your pitch, explain how you’ll handle your responsibilities if the change is made, and offer to start the arrangement on a trial basis.

5. Tune into training. The annual review provides an opportunity to request training and other professional-development resources you might want in order to move your career forward. Do your homework and prepare a list of conferences or courses that will help you build important skills, so you can advance professionally and complete your job more effectively.

Finally, don’t fear feedback. Rare is the employee who receives a perfect review. Be ready to hear about areas in which you can improve. Upon receiving criticism, some employees shut down and become dejected. Others instantly bristle and get defensive. Neither response will help your cause. Expecting to receive constructive critiques can take the sting out of them, allowing you to view your manager’s assessment in an objective manner–and then act on his or her suggestions.

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