Performance reviews can be nerve-wracking experiences, but if you take steps to prepare yourself and walk into your boss’s office strong, they don’t have to be.   

Throughout the Year 

Preparing for a performance review shouldn’t start the morning of the review. In order to be completely prepared, you should be prepping all year.

Keep Track of Everything   

Quantify Your Accomplishments to Stand Out 

Keep a running list of any accomplishments and achievements you have throughout the year. And do not just keep general notes. Hard numbers are the way to go here. What percentage of sales increase did your department or company see as a direct result of the work you did? What specific award did you and the team/workgroup win, exactly how much of an improvement was there in net profit because of your efforts? Your boss probably has a lot of employees and won’t remember every accomplishment of each one. Be ready to show him/her what you’ve done and how you’ve helped the company improve over the last twelve months.   

Own Your Mistakes and Create a Plan to Fix Them 

Even though you want to highlight your accomplishments over the last year, it’s important to also make a note of any weaknesses you’d like to strengthen or mistakes you’ve made. If you feel that one of your weaknesses is a lack of training in a certain area, come up with a plan to correct it. Ask your manager for guidance and support.  Find out how and when you can get the training you need and be ready to show your boss that you’re proactively taking steps to build up your knowledge base.   

Also keep track of any mistakes you make throughout the year and be ready to discuss them. And own them. Learning is part of the job.  Nothing looks worse than not taking responsibility for a mistake you made. Take ownership of what happened and outline what you’ve learned from the experience. Have a plan to be sure it doesn’t happen again.  

Take on More 

Throughout the year, take on as many step up for extra responsibilities if you can, and keep track of those as well. Learn new skills, take on leadership roles, volunteer for tasks and projects. Keep a running list of all of it and be prepared to mention the classes you’ve taken or extra roles you’ve taken on. If there’s ever a time to brag about yourself, this is it.   

Make Note of Any Feedback 

Did you receive a great email from a customer thanking you or your team for your help with their account? Keep it in a file. Any positive feedback you receive from colleagues, employees, supervisors, clients, customers, or anyone else should be placed in that same file. Your supervisor won’t have heard all of the great things people have said about you, and this is the time to bring them up.   

Hopefully you’re doing all these things throughout the year so it isn’t too overwhelming for yourself, and a surprise to your manager.  Nevertheless, a performance review and discussion time is a good reminder to take stock of your accomplishments and learnings, reflect, and pave the path forward. 

Right Before Your Review 

Since you’ve been prepping for your review all year, you’ll be able to use the days leading up to your review focusing on the details.  

Set Your Expectations 

You’re hoping for a great review, of course, but what else would you like to get out of this meeting? Are you hoping for a promotion? A raise? Are your expectations realistic? Before your review, do some research and find out the average salaries and standards for your industry and position. Having this information will help you determine what to ask for, and what to reasonably expect.

Look Back at Your Annual Goals 

What goals did you set for yourself last year? Did you accomplish them? If you did, great! Make sure you add them to the list you’re keeping.  

But if you didn’t meet your goals, you should be prepared to discuss why not. This shouldn’t be a surprise to you or to your boss; you’ve probably been working together all year, and she’s aware of whether or not you’ve met your goals. But you can take this opportunity to go in depth into what happened to stop you from meeting your annual goals and create a plan to reach them. And consider if there’s anything that would help you with your goals. If you need more time, more help from colleagues, more guidance, or more training, this is the time to ask for it.  

Look at Your Notes from Last Year’s Annual Review 

Jot down the feedback you received at last year’s annual review and how you put it into practice over the previous twelve months. Specifically note any positive results you’ve had using that feedback.  

Practice 

Even though you’ll have your list with you, you’ll want to practice talking about the items on it. And you don’t want to just read straight from the paper you brought. Refer to it, of course, but don’t spend the entire performance review staring at the paper and not interacting directly with your supervisor.   

Conclusion 

At this point, you’re as mentally prepared as you can be. The night before your review, lay out your favorite outfit, double check your alarm clock, get a little extra sleep, and know that you are going to ace this review!