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6 Ways to Prep For Performance Review Season Now

Lindsay Tigar  |  January 28, 2020

From creating a “Yay Me!” file to writing a new job description, here’s what to do to make your next review your best ever.

No matter when your company does its annual employee performance reviews, it’s never too early to prepare for it. 

“Early prep allows you plan your own system of attack at the time of your performance review,” says career expert Wendi Weiner. “If your boss has overlooked a place where you brought tremendous and positive impact to the company, your notes and prep can refresh the boss or manager’s recollection easily.”

Taking proactive steps early gives you time to collect data, find examples of your accomplishments and gather your thoughts. The pre-review prep increases the likelihood you’ll come out of the assessment process with a thicker paycheck or a more strategic title (or both!). At the very least it will put you top-of-mind with management when opportunities to advance arise.  

Here are six steps to take right now to truly shine and get noticed during your next performance review. 

Make a “Yay Me” file

It’s easy to forget your successes — big and small — when you’re in the thick of actually doing your job. That’s where the “Yay Me” file comes in.

“A ‘Yay Me’ file is where you document weekly the significant accomplishments you made,” explains career expert and CEO of ExecuPrep, Dethra U. Giles. Tracking on a regular basis gives you a bigger body of work examples to pull from when it comes to your review. 

“This file gives you a huge advantage,” Giles says. “I assure you that your boss has kept no such records. And when confronted with your documentation, they’ll likely conclude that you were awesome, and they just missed it.” An added bonus of keeping a “Yay Me” file: The more we celebrate our achievements, the more confident we will become in our skills and talents. (These five soft skills can also help you negotiate a promotion.)

Come up with tangible goals for the year ahead

Having long-term aspirations and career hopes-and-dreams is groovy — but Weiner also stresses the importance of tangible mile markers in the here-and-now.

She recommends heading into your review with three tangible deliverables you’re confident you can meet within a year. And more importantly, be ready to show how you intend to get there.

“Managers appreciate forward-thinking and those who want to make improvements within the organization and for the organization,” Weiner says. “Have solutions ready for when problems are presented. Match impact with action. Think about how you can support the team and offer your skill sets as value-add to the entire organization.”

Show where fit into the larger picture

What sets a great employee above a good one is their dedication not only to getting ahead themselves, but helping the company meet their goals, too. 

Taking time to really study and understand your employer’s strategic plans speaks volumes in your review session, says leadership development expert Elizabeth Whittaker-Walker.  “In your review, you want to be able to tell and show how your work helped advance the stated goals.”

To do this, find the parallels between the company’s annual goals and your job description, she says. In your review show examples of how specific tasks and outcomes you played a role in helped make a meaningful org-wide impact. 

MORE: 7 Female Leaders on How To Define Your Worth and Get Recognized

Don’t ignore negatives

The “Yay Me” file is your beacon of positivity. But it isn’t the only document that should come along to our review meeting. 

Weiner says outlining shortcomings and providing a critical self-review shows maturity and realism. “No one is going to have a perfect performance rating, but the key is to be prepared for the constructive feedback and come up with ways in which you can do things better or differently,” she says. “Keep in mind that we are always works in progress. Taking accountability for the good and bad shows that you are adaptable to growth and capable of change.”

One way to structure areas you’re working to improve is to use as an example a major project that you led with a team. There were probably some aspects of the project that could have gone smoother. By presenting a 360-degree view of your work you illustrate to your boss how thoroughly invested and honest you are.

MORE: 6 Ways You’re (Unintentionally) Hurting Your Career

Acknowledge others’ work 

While the main purpose of a review is to showcase your achievements, Giles says giving credit where credit is due is the mark of an effective leader. It’s not enough to sing our own praises but to acknowledge any colleagues or direct-reports who assisted efforts in helping you reach goals. 

“No person is an island, and your review needs to reflect your ability to not only work on a team but your ability to give other people credit while still recognizing your contributions to a team,” she adds.

Create a new job description 

If the main goal of your review session is to earn a promotion (that hopefully comes with extra zeros on each paycheck!), then it’s in your best interest to write out a job description. 

Your review is a time to not only reflect on the past but to ask for the future role you desire in the company. Giles says this move is probably the most crucial preparation component that people miss. 

“Creating a plan for you to achieve the skills for your next job is not your boss’s responsibility. The more thinking they have to do for you to reach your goals, the less likely they are to be helpful,” Giles notes. “Make sure to think about the job you are aspiring to — and make sure to include in your preparation a way for you, over the next 12 months, to attain those skills.”

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