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Preparing for Your Performance Review - Time to Stress or Time to Shine?

career development / organizational performance / featured

In the spirit of National Career Development Week, November 10-14, FMG's organizational performance team is eager to share tips on how you can make your performance review a chance to build on your career, not just on your anxiety. Preparing for a performance review can be a daunting and intimidating task, but it doesn't have to be. Some of that stress engendered by an annual review can be alleviated if you keep a few simple things in mind and do a little preparation.

Performance Review Comic

  • Keep an open dialogue with your supervisor. One of the things that make performance appraisals nerve-wracking is the fear of hearing something you are not expecting. One step you can take to avoid surprises would be to keep an open dialogue with your supervisor about your performance year-round. After a task or project, follow-up with your supervisor and those that you worked with on the task to discuss how they thought you handled things and to share your perspective. Being open to feedback, positive or negative, on a rolling basis allows you to hear potential improvement areas, while showing others that you are taking initiative. It may even encourage colleagues to initiate the feedback process, if they know you are open to it.
  • Evaluate your strengths/weaknesses. Another way to diffuse uncertainty regarding your performance review is to evaluate yourself beforehand. Taking an earnest look at your performance over the period of review can help inform much of the feedback you will receive and prepare you for discussion with your supervisor. To simplify the evaluation process, evaluate your work by thinking of how well you have accomplished the basic components of your job. If your organization has identified competencies, think about your strengths and weakness in these areas. In evaluating yourself, you should try to be as unbiased as possible. Focus on the behaviors you engaged in and how they could be interpreted while leaving your feelings about the process out of the equation.
  • Assess your previous goals. In the process of determining achievable and challenging goals for your performance appraisal, it helps to first assess if and how you accomplished your goals from your last review. Maybe your goals no longer apply to your current job or role. Perhaps there were elements out of your control that interfered with completion, such as budgeting or resource allocation. It could be that your goal was just too lofty given the amount of time you had to work on it. Were your goals SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely)? These are all important considerations when thinking about your goals over the past year. Determine why you were or were not able to meet your previous goals and how to account for that when moving forward. If you met all your goals in the past year, consider how to increase the level of difficulty for the new set of goals without making them unattainable given the time and resources you have.
  • Define your career goals. While it is easy to get caught up in goals associated with the day-to-day tasks of your current position, it is important to think about your career projection and where you see yourself in 6 months, 1 year, 3-5 years, even 20 years down the road. Considering your long-term career ambitions will encourage you to create challenging goals that will push you to succeed in your current position and help you achieve that next level in your career plan. Just as your yearly goals require steps leading to their completion, career goals will take several steps to achieve. Try comparing the job description for your current position against the job description for your desired position. This will help to identify developmental areas for your goals. If these job descriptions are not available, prepare to discuss your career goals with your supervisor for further guidance.
  • Prepare your new list of goals. The most integrative way to compose this new list of goals is to incorporate what you discovered through completing the above tasks. Depending on your supervisor, he or she may have already suggested some goals for you, but it is ultimately your decision as to which goals will best shape your career. If you have no suggestions to start with, fear not; start with reviewing your list of strengths and weaknesses from above. Depending on what your list says, you may choose to focus on your weaknesses to become more well-rounded or you may want to focus on enhancing your strengths. Here is where your career goals can be helpful once again: To get where you want to go is it more important to overcome a potential deficiency in your performance, or are you at the stage where you need to be leveraging your strengths? Without having the bigger picture for your career it is harder to make these determinations. Once you have decided what areas to focus your goals on, the guidelines below can help develop your formal list of goals:
    • Make them as tangible as possible. While your overarching goal might be vague, creating sub-goals can simplify complex ideas. The sub-goals should outline specific activities that demonstrate measurable progress. Develop these specific, concrete steps to achieve the main goal.
    • Develop a detailed timeline for each overall goal and its sub-goals. This might require some rough guesses at first, but attaching a specific date to each step will help in holding yourself accountable.
    • Think about and list all potential obstacles in achieving this goal. This list will be useful in determining how realistic your stated goals are to achieve. Be prepared to discuss with your supervisor and be forthright so they can effectively support your efforts.
    • Share and discuss goals with your supervisor to ensure that goals are challenging and beneficial to your development as an employee in your role in the organization.

While following these tips may not alleviate all of the stress associated with your review they will at least make you better prepared. Having open discussions with your supervisor and demonstrating that you are serious about making the most of your career helps to show that you are prepared to take on additional challenges. Integrating these tips into your goal-setting process will help foster a rewarding performance review experience for career growth.

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