You took the effort to beef up your resume, ditched your old job like a bad relationship and now landed a new career. Hard work is over right? Wrong. It’s performance review time buddy! For some people this may roll around once a year. For others it may be twice a year or even quarterly (yikes!). Don’t make the mistake of assuming your boss knows you are doing a great job. The curtains are up. Spotlight is on you. It’s time to put on an infomercial selling how awesome you are. And don’t forget, all while sending subliminal messages how you would like your job or workplace improved. Here are my tips to prepare for your performance review:
1. Keep a Running List of Performance Accomplishments Throughout the Year
Email can be wonderful at times. It’s an electronic record that you can look back on, organize in folders, remind yourself of future tasks, as well as the jobs you have accomplished! For me, I create a new folder each performance year. Every time I accomplish a task that was related to my job, handled a difficult situation or backed anyone else up (saved the day!) I place a copy of that email in the “Performance Year 2018” folder.
If there are no emails related to the task or situation, I write an email and send it to myself. Taking two minutes to write-up what you did for who, or a decision you made on something, can really highlight what all you have done throughout the year. Plus, it doubly serves as documentation for when others have no memory, “I don’t remember deciding we should do that?” I find it super fun to remark, “Sure we did, I think I have an email on that!” and show them my note from over a year ago. I take a small pride when someone now remarks in a meeting, “well, I’m not writing anything down, because I know you will and remind me later.” Hey, it’s one way I also learned it makes my bosses’ lives easier!
2. Make Your Accomplishments Quantitative and Measurable
I have been supervised by people who used to be in the job I was in, as well as by others who had no clue how to do my job and they even questioned why they were supervising me.
For the bosses who have done the job that you are in:
Your performance reviews are a lot easier for them to do. For me, I didn’t have to list how long it took to do x activity, how many times per week or month, etc. because they had ‘been there, done that.’ So, these bosses would just barely skim my performance accomplishments. Mark me as successful. Thank me for being the easiest, quickest one to review.
To not get passed over, I started highlighting new challenges they never experienced when they were in my job. As well as areas I improved or trained in others. It helped demonstrate I was going above an beyond the job they used to be in. This is also when I started keeping my electronic email file for my performance year which helped immensely when I needed to reflect back on the year.
For bosses who have no clue how to do your job:
I took a queue from when I was a supervisor and had to review employees in jobs that I had never done. When employees first handed me their performance accomplishments, it was written in such a vague format, “worked with people.” I did a palm to forehead moment and that’s when I decided to do a quick staff meeting. “Here’s how to make your performance accomplishments quantitative and measurable.”
They eventually grasped the concept of how to write their accomplishments. “Processed on average X # authorizations per week. Spent 2 hours per day on this activity.” In this format, it really helped me also understand what they did. How long it took them and I saw areas I could help them improve in, their areas of frustration or things that were easy for them.
When I wrote up my accomplishments for bosses that didn’t know what I was doing in a measurable format, they were blown away I spent so much time on certain activities. Or realized how things have changed since the last person who was in my position. For instance, the person in my previous position was only required to conduct one review a year. Since then, certain laws and requirements have changed, I now must conduct 3 per year.
They had no idea I spent one week (or more) gathering documentation, from 6-10 different people (departments), spent a week consolidating, reviewing and questioning it, and another week writing up my report. There’s easily +3 weeks spent on 1 review. Making your accomplishments measurable in a digestible format helps bosses understand where you spend your time and how you do your job.
3. Align Your Accomplishments Under a Performances Measures or Elements
Most of the time when you are hired, you have a position description. Often times, the position description is broken a part by areas you are responsible for and there also may be a separate performance plan for your description. I’ve seen these called performance measures or elements. During your performance review, you may be rated a 1-5, or a color code system of red to green on these measures.
Being rated a 3 or coded yellow simply means you are successful in your job. However a 2 or an orange color may indicate you have some areas you need to improve in. 1 or red is pretty much you’ve failed and are out the door. When reflecting on your accomplishments during the year, try and place them within the areas you are responsible for, such as if there as an interacting with the public/customer service element, human resources, etc. Review the standards for each elements, and understand “what does it take for me to be successful, a 3, in this element?” Then review your accomplishments and try and align them under that 3. If there’s anything in your accomplishments that makes you above/beyond that 3 level, see what it takes to be a 4 or a 5.
Rate yourself before going into the review:
Often times, I rate in my head what I should be for each performance measure. This way, I am not surprised by what my Supervisor rates me. People are often harder on themselves. This is true with me as well since Supervisors usually rate me the same as I would, or higher. Only one time a Supervisor rated me lower in an element than I thought I deserved. I reflected on that situation, and I deemed it’s because I didn’t sell myself enough/write up my accomplishments in a format they could really understand what I did (don’t let yourself be passed over!)
4. Prepare to be Interviewed During the Performance Review
Just as when you are preparing for a job interview, prepare yourself for questions your boss may ask you. Especially the weird, hypothetical questions that can really throw you for a loop. One of the most dreaded questions a boss always asks, “How can I, as your Supervisor, better support you and your performance?” Umm, are they really prepared to hear this answer and are capable of answering it on the spot?
Here are my instant thoughts, “Yeah, I would really love my own, private office. Although my conversations aren’t private, they can be sensitive and those in cubeland who overhear my conversations, only pick up on key words and run like wild children with them. Also, I hate doing X activity. So-and-so has more patience for this. I would really like to dump this work on them. It’s below my pay-grade anyway. I’m not sure why it’s in my performance. I could be used for higher level activities. While I’m on a roll, can I have my own assistant or intern? I have tons of stuff I could have them do!”
Be realistic here.
One can assume how bluntly saying those things in an interview would go over. To a boss in a performance review, it would be about the same: “No, No and No.” So, you have to choose your words carefully and plant seeds in their head, and over time, maybe one or two of your demands may come to fruition.
Such as, “I feel I’m not an expert in X activity yet. You’ve taught me how to do this job. I am keeping up, but I think the best way to test one’s knowledge is in teaching others. Is there an opportunity I can teach others and help them learn about this as well?”
If your boss is smart, they will instantly think of an intern or an assistant who you could train as a backup in this activity. Who doesn’t love an employee who wants to support continuity of operations? Hopefully, now your boss feels important like they are supporting you in your performance by helping you reach that expert level. And you get an intern to dump activities on. Everybody wins!
Ask for changes that benefit everyone!
Your boss may ask how you like your work environment. In reality, getting a private office is not going to happen while you are on the lower end of the totem pole in seniority.
Instead, keep reminding them of what’s important to you or you used to have. “In my previous place of employment, I had my own office for over 10 years. Cubeland has been quite the change in environment. Others are overhearing my phone calls. Sometimes, they interrupt my conversations to ask who I’m talking with. Or later discuss topics with me or others I brought up in my phone call. Do you think a sound or some sort of white noise machine would cut down on some of the quietness? Also, everyone catches colds so easily in here since it’s open and we are all together so close. Would the office invest in some air purifiers?”
Point here is asking for things that are obtainable that may improve not only yours, but the entire office’s situation.
5. Provide Examples for Areas of Improvement
Boasting how great you are for an hour is not advisable during a performance review. Be human, be humble. Reflect back on the year and bring up a time where you wished you would have handled a situation or a person differently. Say what you learned from that experience. You are taking the lead to acknowledge something that could have been done better. This may have already been on the Supervisor’s radar to bring up with you. But now, you seem pretty aware of your surroundings and you are capable of realizing your own mistakes and how you can fix them.
Also, Supervisors may decide to hijack your performance review and turn it into a 360 review for them, “Please tell me how I can improve? How can the team improve?” Having a quick list of things you see that may need improvement is easier to bring up than being blind-sided. “Hey, I thought this performance review was about me, now you are asking about the team?!” It does happen. I have learned that great bosses appreciate feedback and are generally concerned about how they are performing as a Supervisor, or Manager, and want to improve as well.
Put some effort into your accomplishments for your performance review. This may be the only time you get their undivided attention to demonstrate who you are and what you do. It is especially important if they have never done your job and don’t know how to do it. Following the above steps may help with the stress of performance reviews. Also, get you to the next level of where you want to be in your career.
What has helped you prepare for and get through performance reviews?