Regardless of the process your boss or your organization uses to evaluate performance, you can and should be the driver of your annual performance evaluation. As a young professional, I was always a passive participant in my annual reviews. I would sit down and wait for the feedback. I would cross my fingers for a raise. I didn’t do my homework and I didn’t set myself up for success in those conversations. As a result, it’s no surprise that I always left disappointed with overwhelming feelings that my supervisor “missed stuff”.

I didn’t drive the conversations in my annual review. I simply participated. As a result, I likely missed some opportunities to learn, grow, and advance. We have to be our own best advocates and we CANNOT be passive participants on our career journeys.

It’s time to put yourself in the driver seat of your annual performance evaluation. Below are the four things you can do to ensure success in your annual review.

One: Log Your Successes and Accomplishments

Your boss isn’t responsible for logging everything you have accomplished within the year. If you assume that they know all the work you’ve been doing to accomplish your goals, advance the business objectives, and ensure success – you’re dead wrong. Supervisors and managers generally only record the stuff you’ve done REALLY well (on occasion) and when you’ve screwed up. Their memory is spotty at best. If you’re relying on their memory for a raise, promotion, or more responsibility – stop.

We have to be our own best advocates and we have to be tracking daily the successes and accomplishments we’ve made throughout the year. Start a Success Journal (read the blog about success journals here).

If you’re headed into an annual review and haven’t been logging your accomplishments and successes all year, here’s what you need to build a list of:

  • What you have done in the last year to achieve the outcomes outlined in your job description.
  • What you have done in the last year to help your team, division, or department achieve its annual goals.
  • What you have personally done to advance to business objectives of the organization.
  • What you have done to help your boss achieve their goals.
  • What additional responsibilities you have taken on or job functions you have performed in the last year that are outside you job responsibilities (and that you have not been additionally compensated for).

This list should represent tangible things you have done, outlined with as much specificity as possible. No list is too long and no thing is too little. Once you start logging accomplishments and successes daily, this list will be easy to compile annually, but if you’re just getting started, focus on listing as much as you can think of from the year – then edit/combine the list accordingly.

Two: Know Your Areas of Improvement.

No human is perfect and no employee should ever leave a performance evaluation without places where they can improve. Don’t leave the list of “improvement areas” up to your supervisor or manager. Make the list for them. Don’t just own your mistakes, come with the solutions, too. Reflect on what you should have/would have done differently and what you learned from those mistakes. Showing up as a problem-solver makes your boss’s job a heck of a lot easier. They’ll appreciate that you came to the table not only with an awareness of where you can improve, but with solutions to do so.

Use that conversation to focus on areas you where would like to grow or places you know you need additional training or support in. When you focus on these things, it helps make your case for more professional development, access to more important meetings/people, and opportunities to learn and grow in the next year – not just punitive action for some mistakes you made in the past.

Three: Share the Data in Advance.

Send you successes/achievements and your areas of growth well in advance of the meeting. In most cases, managers and supervisors are given a set amount of dollars during the budget period for raises for the whole team. By the time they get to the performance evaluation meeting with you, they’ve already made decisions about who gets how much. If that’s the first time your supervisor is seeing information about accomplishments, don’t expect a merit-based raise or promotion. You’ll likely get less than you want – and definitely less than you deserve.

Sharing the data in advance also allows you to frame the conversation at your annual review. It sets the foundation with your supervisor where they already understand your contributions over the last year. As a result, you spend your time talking about what’s next for you, your role, your career, instead of what happened over the last year. The conversation becomes future-focused, instead of a “review of past work”.

If you’ve got a performance evaluation coming up soon, send the data ASAP. It’s never too late for you boss to make decisions about compensation, benefits, or perks that they can use to reward the good work you’ve done.

Four: Ask for What You Want.

Always, always, always ask for what you want. The worst that can happen is that they say “No.”

Do you want more money? How much more do you want? What are some other ways beyond salary that you could be compensated? Sometimes, employers are strapped with salary dollars, but they may have other creative ways that they can compensate you like bonus money, more vacation, etc.

Do you want more training or professional development? What training or development do you want? What’s the financial implications and cost of those opportunities? What will you gain from them? How will they help you better achieve the business outcomes?

Do you want more responsbility or a promotion? What job functions or responsibilities would you add? Why do you believe you’re prepared for those? What job functions/responsibilities would you remove as a result of these new tasks? What would your job description be?

Don’t just walk into your performance evaluation with a list of demands. Again, bosses love problem-solvers who make their jobs easier. If there are things that you want, ask for them, but come with the data, the options, and the information to make the case for those things as well.

What Happens if I Do All of This Work and Get Nothing?

It’s entirely possible that you could do all of this work and get no where with you manager/supervisor. If that happens, ask specifically for what you can do in the next year to position yourself for a better review, more money, or more responsibility. Ask them what their priorities are and how you can help achieve them. If they are able to clearly outline what you need to do, get it in writing or send a follow-up email to that fact – and then spend the next year working to achieve those things. Ask for quarterly or monthly check-ins to make sure your on track. Remember, success isn’t measured by you – success is measured by your manager and company leadership. Use their measuring stick to determine the work you should be doing.

You might not get immediate answers to your requests, especially if its the first time your boss is hearing it. Don’t get frustrated when the answer is “I don’t know,” or “I need to think about that/check on that.” Give a little grace and ask for a deadline to get decisions on your requests.

Either way, you have to be the driver of your annual performance evaluation. Don’t be a passive participant – take ownership over the experience and make it work for you.

Until we break more glass…