1. Review your position description (PD)
If you’re feeling lost about where to start, revisiting your PD is a great way to begin. This document should outline the purpose, duties and responsibilities of your role, which you can then use as the foundation for your prep. When you think about all the things you’ve achieved over the last 12 months, consider how they relate to your PD. If you’re looking to get promoted, track down the PD of the job you’re seeking, and think about whether there’s any scope for you to take on similar duties to this role, or learn some of the required skills.
2. Make a list of your accomplishments
Don’t be modest! A performance review is your opportunity to showcase the value you bring to your workplace, so don’t undersell yourself. A good place to start is by familiarising yourself with your organisation’s high-level goals, then mapping your accomplishments to this. Look back through shared documents, status reports, emails and presentations to collect evidence of your achievements.
When listing your accomplishments, point to tangible goals you’ve met or exceeded. For example, did you reduce a percentage of costs, gain a certain amount of new business or decrease a number of program bugs? Quantifying your contributions will help build a case for why you’re an asset to your workplace. But don’t forget, qualitative indicators are important too! Consider the relationships you’ve fostered or the important conversations you’ve steered. You could evidence this by quoting praise you’ve received from stakeholders, or glowing reviews you’ve been given by clients. And importantly, try and demonstrate how your contributions are unique to you.
3. Set goals
If this isn’t your first rodeo, then you probably set yourself some goals during your last performance review. Now is the time to look over them and consider whether you feel they’ve been met. If so, what insights did you learn along the way? Which ones are you most proud of? How would you like to expand on them?
If you didn’t achieve your goals, consider how much progress you made towards them. Perhaps your priorities changed throughout the year, or your team encountered an unforeseen challenge. Either way, come prepared and willing to discuss this with your manager. And remember, you still need to do your goalsetting for the upcoming year. What would you like to do or learn in the next 12 months? Maybe you’re looking to take on more responsibility, like managing people for the first time, trialling a new process, or putting a newfound skill into action. If so, come prepared with a compelling justification for why doing these things would add value to the organisation.
4. Consider how you’ll respond to feedback
Even if you’ve been kicking goals all year, it’s just about guaranteed that you’ll receive some kind of constructive criticism during your performance review. After all, mistakes are human, and everybody has things they could improve on. But while you may be inclined to go on the defensive after receiving feedback, doing so is unlikely to help your situation.
Receiving any kind of criticism may not be easy, but if you're able to respond with humility, accountability and genuine curiosity, then you’ll end up earning the respect of your co-workers. If you receive feedback about something that was a genuine oversight on your part, it’s important to take ownership of that, then demonstrate that you’re making efforts to turn it around. For instance, if your manager says that you often seem disorganised, acknowledge the mistake, then come up with a tangible strategy to manage your time better, perhaps by suggesting some tools you’ll use to track your workflow. Be as specific as you can. Remember, the more productively you respond to feedback, the better it is for your professional development, your working relationships, and your future in that role.
5. Think beyond this year or next
Performance reviews are your opportunity to think big. Where do you want your career to take you? Are you satisfied with the path you’re on now, or would you like to pivot into a different team, department or career?
For long-term planning, it can be helpful to think about future scenarios that appeal to you, then try and map out the steps required to get from where you are now to where you’d like to be. Consider how people you admire have accomplished their career goals by attending alumni networking events or by finding a mentor in an aligned profession. Are there any skills you need to work on developing? Maybe there’s a postgrad course you’d like to study to help you advance, or a short course you’ve got your eye on. If so, create a list of goals to work toward, and an achievable timeline for all of them. If you’d like to stay at your current workplace, then these goals should align with the goals of your organisation, showing that your professional growth aligns with the growth of the company.