Performance reviews and appraisals are not the only time when you discuss your career goals with your boss, the goals can be set either at the very first meeting when you join in a new job or a new team/division or anywhere during project changes or set up in timely recurring meetings throughout the year.

Whether you had a great or a bad performance review for the last year, now is the time to ensure a more positive one for this year. Plan and prepare to meet with your boss on goal planning for the current year. Most of us just chuck it under the carpet or roll our eyes, wanting our best to delay as much as possible, either the goal setting meeting with your boss or discussing your performance review before it happens. But taking charge of your career is in your hands and you better be diligent and proactive about it. If you don’t take control now no one would and the outcome may not be to your liking.

Eric Jackson in an interesting article in Forbes says:

“…most employees don’t know what they’ll be doing in 5 years. In our experience, about less than 5% of people could tell you if you asked. However, everyone wants to have a discussion with you about their future. Most bosses never engage with their employees about where they want to go in their careers — even the top talent. This represents a huge opportunity for you and your organization if you do bring it up.”


Performance management is as much your responsibility as your manager’s, well in fact more of yours. Your company’s performance management system may be a real sucker or even one that changes every now and then (a personal experience – when a previous year’s performance appraisal was very conveniently ‘lost’ by the system. I ignored it then, with the “who-cares” attitude; but now realize the importance of what it truly means to be better informed of the performance management reports and what it means to visit them often to be on top of personal career development).

Not tomorrow nor later – today is the time to take initiate: if you have never had a goal setting meeting or performance review (whether new to the company or have been there for ‘don’t-know-how-long’) – now is the time. Managing your performance review and setting career goals with your boss strengthens your communication with upper management and brings forward your work and achievements within the company. You have to market yourself continuously to be visible as a valuable contributor to the organization, if you do not toot your horn no one else will – so take charge now.

Setting up a Meeting with your Manager

Initiate a meeting to discuss on goal setting plans for this year.
When? Ensure that you and your boss are not in a hurry to join another meeting or a Friday evening when all you have in mind is to be out of the office as soon as you can shake off that last task.
Email request: Send a meeting request email or just walk in and talk to him/her about it. (Though it should very well come from your manager but why wait if that has not happened since long – when you initiate you display abilities to lead and take charge of the situation).

Start your Email or conversation on these lines (after the ‘usual’ polite greetings and salutations):

I want to meet with you to discuss the career goals for this year and to explore further growth opportunities within the company. During this meeting I propose that we take time to assess each other expectations on my current projects and also I shall have the opportunity to get clarifications on future prospects of my career development.”

Ask your boss for a convenient date and time for this meeting. Try to adhere to his timelines.

Such a conversation or communication enables the management to see “what’s it in for them” though rightfully they should be more concerned about how to develop the employee, but yet again if you are not in that set of environment – it is important to realize that keeping on top of your career growth is your responsibility and in a way recession-proofs your career as well.


What and How to discuss with your Boss in this Meeting

  • Discuss in depth the expectations from the present and planned projects and keep the task measurable.
  • Draft a process for continued communication or seek suggestions on how your manager plans on keeping track of the tasks and deadlines assigned to you. Don’t be shy to communicate if the expectations do not match and/or you have a proposal to work on some other tasks within the team.
  • Ask your manager on how the feedback system would work – on the task accountability and appraisals going forward.
  • The goal setting discussions should not be just one-a-year-discussion, take time to find out through your company policies if mid-year reviews are supported and ask your manager if he endorses multiple reviews (twice or quarterly) in a year.

Tip: Use good communication skills during this discussion and be a good listener.

Post-Meeting Action Items

  • Document what has been discussed in the meeting. Prepare a concise outline and send your manager for approval, from here on it should be the manager’s responsibility to follow-up with HR to get your goals well placed in the performance management system of the company. But do not hesitate to follow-up a few days or a week later to find out how the process finally shaped up and if there are some action items on your plate now.
  • Document again the final goals set and visit your performance management system if and when the need arises to update tasks on their status or add new ones.
  • Further during the year your tasks and responsibilities may change, make sure that you edit it on the review system as well in your personal documentation.

Take charge of your career, manage your career well and reap the benefits of growth every year!