review2Whew! The review is over and we don’t want to think about it again for another year.  But, could that be a mistake?  Could it be that performance reviews can actually be valuable tools in helping us reach our career goals?

The answer to both questions is – yes!  If the only time you think about your performance review is when it is staring you in the face, you are missing out on opportunities to turn a chore into an asset.


How Can My Performance Review Help My Career?

Your performance review gives you a snapshot of what the most important person for your career advancement – your manager – thinks of your performance. It can impact promotions, salary increases and bonuses, but there are other, less obvious opportunities.

  • Clarity of expectations
    While you may have subsequent meetings to establish performance objectives, discussion of the past year’s performance can yield valuable information about what you are doing right as well as what needs to change to help you perform at your best.
  • Discussion of career goals
    Assuming that your performance during the year has been satisfactory, this can be a good time to learn about possible next steps in your career and what you can do to prepare yourself as well as possible assignments and projects where you can further develop competencies.
  • Identification of priorities and retargets 
    Whether your review is good, bad or mixed, it should always include a discussion of the coming year, where it is important to focus your efforts and what will help.   Discussing successes and failures can help you and your manager identify what can be built upon and what adjustments would be helpful.


How Can I Get the Most from My Performance Review?

  • Make sure you are clear on performance expectations 
    As mentioned above, here is the time to dissect the past year’s projects and priorities to make sure you completely understand what “good” looks like.
  • Set performance goals
    Whether during your performance review or at another meeting, discuss and agree on your priorities for the coming year – both what you should be working on and how you are expected to accomplish it.  Discuss how your work can best support departmental priorities.
  • Ask for feedback throughout the year
    By the time performance review time rolls around, you should already know what your manager thinks of your performance.  If your manager does not offer feedback, ask for it!  And don’t accept vague comments like, “you’re doing fine.”  Ask for specific examples of what you are doing well and what you should change.
  • Keep notes and records
    on your achievements, progress on goals and the feedback you receive throughout the year.
  • Write your own review 
    Write and submit your accomplishments at least a month before performance review time.  Use your notes to compare your accomplishments with the goals you and your manager set.  Don’t be shy about describing your accomplishments positively.   Amy Gallo, recommends you carefully include a few shortcomings, identifying what you have learned and what you need to succeed in the future and that you use the opportunity to lobby for career development opportunities.  Send a copy of your review to your manager and bring one with you to the review session.
  • Listen
    Your attitude during the review meeting is crucial.   No matter what you hear, avoid defensiveness.  In another post on this site, Shweta points out the importance of listening with an open mind, avoiding assigning interpretations to what is being said. Make sure you come out of the meeting with an agreement between you and your manager about what you need to start, stop and continue doing in the coming year.  If you can’t get to that point in one meeting, ask for another.


What If I Don’t Get a Good Review?

  • Control your reaction
    Listen, take notes, then go away and think about it.
  • Ask for specific examples
    This can be done in the initial meeting if you can avoid defensiveness or ask for a second meeting.  Let your manager know ahead of time that you will be looking for specific examples so that you can be sure you understand what is expected of you.
  • Be solution-oriented
    Think of the issue as a problem that you and your manager can solve together.  Make sure you clearly understand what needs to change.  Think about whether you need any assistance – perhaps some training or help in removing barriers to success.  Take responsibility for your own performance.
  • Follow through
    Ask for frequent feedback on your progress throughout the year to make sure that you make the necessary adjustments to ensure that next year’s appraisal will be a positive one.


About the Guest Post Author:

Sean Conrad is a senior product analyst at Halogen Software, where he helps HR teams improve their organization’s performance management processes. He’s a regular contributor to the Halogen blog, often writing about talent management trends and best practices.