How to prepare for your annual performance review

The time leading up to your annual performance review is filled with mixed emotions. You hope you did a good job so you can get a large bonus, a raise, and maybe even a promotion. You want to know that you did your job well.

But there is also a voice inside your head that wonders if you actually did a good job. Maybe you didn’t perform up to your boss’s standards?

No matter what you’re thinking, your performance review is an important moment in your year. It will set your compensation for the year, what types of projects you work on for the year, and your chances of getting a raise and promotion at your next performance review.

Fortunately, there is a way to handle your performance review so you can climb up the ladder.

Performance reviews, from your boss’s perspective, are focused on how you did last year.

From your perspective, your performance review should be focused on what you will do next year to make sure you add more value to the company than in past years. Why is that important?

Because if you add more value to the company in the next 12 months than you did last year, then it stands to reason that you deserve a raise since you generate more profit. And as you take on more responsibility, you will eventually get a higher job title to match your new responsibilities.

There are a few things you can do to set yourself up for a performance review focused on the future.

Remember what projects you worked on

The first part of preparing for your performance review is largely introspective. You will reflect on the projects you worked on, what went well, what mistakes you made, and what improvements you made compared to past years.

Think back to all of the projects you worked on last year. If you need help, go through your email inbox and see what messages you sent and received.

Which projects met expectations, which projects did you do an outstanding job on, and which projects could have used improvement? Write each project down and a note about what the final result was for each. Then write down what you specifically worked on in each project. That should give you a sense of how much of the project’s success or failure was because of your work.

This is largely the area of your performance review that your boss will focus on. Making this list will help you understand what he’s going to say and prepare for it.

See what improvements you made through the year

Next, write down any improvements you made throughout the year. Did you get better at your job over the year and how did you get better? Did you take on any new responsibilities that weren’t anticipated in your last performance review? If so, what is the financial impact on your department and company? If you are making a larger financial impact, you might expect to get a raise or bonus for your work. Hopefully your boss noticed your new responsibilities and had the budget to compensate you. If he doesn’t, you can explain your improvement and ask for your boss to keep it in mind the next time there is a new budget.

Every workplace is different. If your company is one where your boss asks you to write down what you worked on last year and send it to him a week before your review, it’s a good idea to highlight the new responsibilities in a different section than your usual projects. This will remind your boss that you are doing more work now than you were last year. If there’s more money in the compensation budget, he’ll know that you deserve a piece of it.

Collect feedback you received throughout the year

Another way to see if you made improvements through the year is to check on the feedback your colleagues gave you. You can look at your email and see who said positive things about you. This is especially valuable if the people complimenting you are senior employees at the company.

If you made improvements in the year and your colleagues said positive things about you, you can expect a raise or good bonus this year. Again, it’s a good idea to send some of this feedback to your boss if he asks you to review your projects before your review. Ideally, send them before next year’s budget is allocated so he knows about your new responsibilities beforehand.

Think about where you want to be one year from now

Another part of preparing for your review is to think about what you want a year from now. If you want a raise or promotion, you should ask for more responsibilities during your review. So think about what tasks you could take on and what skills you want to learn. It’s especially helpful if these new tasks help the company reach its strategic goals. Write them down.

Now that you assembled your past accomplishments and what you want to work on next year, practice your annual review. Practice by speaking out loud and recording yourself. Think about who will be in the room: your boss, maybe your boss’s boss and an HR representative.

The review will likely start out with your boss talking about your performance last year. After your boss talks about what he needs to (your performance, bonus, raises, etc.) you want to practice transitioning the conversation to new responsibilities for next year. Use the positive feedback your colleagues gave you as evidence that you can handle new responsibilities and higher value projects.

As a note, your annual review is not a good time to negotiate for a raise because the budget for the next year has already been set. There isn’t much your boss can do about a raise for next year if it wasn’t accounted for already.

But by setting yourself to work on higher value projects this year, you are putting yourself in a good position to ask for a raise before the next year’s budget is set.

Your focus on your annual review should be to get more important projects which demonstrates your increased value to your company. If you increased your value to the company, your boss will be able to secure you a raise and/or a promotion for your next annual performance review.

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