If you’re like many Americans, work slows down during the holiday season. That should give you some extra time to prepare for one of the less thrilling traditions that comes this time of year: The annual year-end review.
A growing number of companies are doing way with annual reviews entirely, but reports of their demise have been exaggerated. Annual reviews are still used by nearly three-quarters of organizations, according to the Society of Human Resource Management.
When done properly annual reviews are a chance for employees to get on the same page as their boss when it comes to performance and goals. They’re also an opportunity for you to discuss your pay, path to promotion, and address issues you may have.
To get the most out of your year-end review, follow these steps:
- Prepare ahead of time. Think carefully and critically about your performance over the year to avoid surprises during your review. Ideally, you’ve been compiling a report all year long detailing your professional wins.“Look at where you were last year and how you have moved the needle in terms of what you’ve accomplished this year,” says Donna Stoneham, author of The Thriver’s Edge: Seven Keys to Transform the Way You Live, Love, and Lead. If you haven’t done so, start thinking now about concrete ways that you’ve contributed to the company over the past year. That will help you highlight your achievements during the meeting and ensure that you don’t forget about important successes.
- Be prepared for and open to criticism. Constructive criticism can be one of your best career motivators. Avoid getting defensive and listen carefully to the areas where you boss says you can improve and ask about specific steps you can take to get better in those areas.If you know your performance was sub-par this year, rather than coming in to the meeting with excuses come up with a game plan on how you’re going to turn it around next year. “Your focus should be on how to improve in the following year, rather than trying to spin the numbers,” says Dan Schawbel, author of Promote Yourself & Me 2.0.
- Establish clear goals. Some smaller companies make decisions about promotions and raises during the review process, but many larger companies separate the two activities. If you’re gunning for a raise or promotion and weren’t able to score one this year, make your intentions clear to you boss.“Tell them that you’re interested in taking more responsibility and ask if there’s an actionable plan to move you into a more senior position,” says Bettina Deynes, SHRM. “If the answer is ‘no’ then you need to find to what you can do to get to that point.”
Work with your boss to establish both short- and long-term goals that you’ll need to be meet in order to get a title bump or pay increase. Then don’t wait until your next performance review to revisit the discussion. Track your performance against those targets and check in with your boss throughout the year to show her how you’re progressing.