Going to the dentist. Having the middle seat on a long flight. Sitting through your next performance review. What these three events have in common is that few of us look forward to any of them, performance reviews especially. Annual reviews make most of us uncomfortable, as we wonder which aspects of our performance were most important, and whether we will be evaluated fairly. The entire process seems vague, subjective – and extremely intimidating.
Fortunately, there's a simple procedure that will greatly reduce your performance appraisal anxiety. Before your next formal evaluation, take the initiative to do your own performance appraisal first. It isn't as difficult as it sounds, especially if you start early.
The best time to lay the groundwork is when you're hired by a new company or when you're promoted. Ask the HR department to email you a copy of the form that will be used to evaluate your performance in the new job. Study the criteria listed or, better yet, review the form with your boss. Determine which categories are most important and what your boss considers outstanding performance in each one.
With these performance criteria in mind, regularly review your on-the-job efforts. Match your accomplishments – with specific examples – to the categories on the form. Unless you do this every month or so, you'll inevitably forget many of your achievements by the time the formal appraisal rolls around. Some people even keep track of their accomplishments in a detailed journal or Google Doc to help develop a portfolio of their work. For example, if you're a design engineer, you can build a portfolio of your designs. A creative director can compile the designs for advertising they've created.
Any emails, company documents or other messages that commend you on your work accomplishments also should be saved whenever possible. If someone compliments you verbally on the quality of your work, ask that person to repeat the comments in an email. Any publicity you've attracted for your firm, whether through published papers, press releases or speeches and presentations made should be included as well.
If you've solved difficult problems, or used good judgment in a complex situation, be sure to document it in detail. Outline your initial alternatives, the course of action you took, how you arrived at your decision and how this demonstrates your capability in a particular category on the appraisal form.
When aiming for a raise or a promotion, consider how the action would be justified from your manager's point of view. This is where your journal of weekly self-assessments and portfolio of accomplishments comes in handy. Be ready to quantify your actions in dollars and cents either earned or saved. In today's economy, nothing will gain you greater kudos than the actions you've taken that help boost your company's bottom line.
–Tony Lee is the Publisher of CareerCast.com and JobsRated.com