Maximize Your Performance Review to Boost Your Career

Is it performance review time already? Every year, you sit down with your boss to discuss your performance over the past 12 months, as well as your career trajectory. Although the annual performance review can be nerve-wracking for some, it can also be an important step as you climb the career ladder. Here’s how to get the most from this professional ritual.

The nuts and bolts of performance reviews

Whether they’re done one-on-one with your boss or with a 360-degree panel, there are a few basic components of every performance review. First, this review will evaluate whether you achieved the individual goals you set for yourself the prior year. Because your goals were measurable—right?—this is the most clear-cut part of the performance review. Your boss will look at how your work supported department and organizational goals, too.

You’ll be evaluated on how well you performed the requirements of your job. In addition, your manager will provide you feedback on your behaviors, such as how well you communicate, manage conflict, demonstrate leadership and solve problems. You will hear about your strengths, as well as any areas where you have an opportunity to make improvements.

Your boss will also take a close look at what you did to update your skills over the past year. “Employee learning and development also plays an important part in your performance review,” notes Rhoda Smackum.

Why they matter

At their essence, performance reviews are a valuable tool you can leverage to achieve professional success. First and foremost, there’s a financial consideration—and money talks. “Performance-based awards and bonuses can be tied to your performance review,” explains Smackum.  

Performance reviews—especially when linked to your compensation–hold you accountable to the goals and objectives set by management. They give you the opportunity to benchmark and really understand the importance of meeting your organization’s objectives.

“Ideally your manager put metrics in place, which will help you understand how your success is measured,” says Smackum. “This will help you gauge your individual performance.”

Beyond discussing metrics, performance reviews give you and your manager a platform to engage in a frank discussion about expectations for your performance. This process provides you with a means to share your ideas and feedback, as well as ask for any professional development opportunities you believe would enhance your productivity.

Welcoming feedback with open ears—and an open mind

There’s a chance you may hear something you don’t like during your performance review, but don’t take it personally. Remember, the purpose of a performance review is to receive feedback on how well you’re doing your job. You should welcome this information because it will help you thrive in your role—and open the door for professional growth.

It’s important to note that nothing you hear during your performance review should come as a surprise. If you’re not already checking in with your boss frequently, your performance review is a great time to set up regular, ongoing face-to-face discussions with your manager so both parties are kept current on progress, challenges and concerns.

“You should set new goals yearly and monitor them quarterly or every six months,” advises Smackum.

Turning feedback into action

You’ve gotten your boss’s feedback. What’s next? If your performance review was mostly positive, continue to do what you are doing—but set the bar higher.

If you received constructive criticism, address it head on. Ask for professional development opportunities to help you grow and develop. Offer to check in with your manager more often so that negative feedback does not come as a surprise during your performance review.

In the end, consider your performance review a gift your boss gives you to help you succeed.

“Employees deserve the best compensation, rewards, recognition for their achievements,” insists Smackum. “The only way to do this is to understand what needs to be measured and how we are meeting those goals.”