Career & Education

Exactly What You Need To Do To Get The Most Out Of Your Annual Review

By | Wednesday, December 13, 2017

When I was a communication student, the most surprisingly useful unit we covered was the (sometimes dreaded) annual review. What’s there to know about annual performance reviews? I thought when my professor first introduced the topic. All you need to do is sit there and nod while your boss tells you how you did this year.

Or at least that’s what I imagined. (Can you tell I’d never really had a successful performance review before?)

But boy, was I wrong.

You play an active role in your annual review, and every little piece of the review process is designed to help you be the best employee you could possibly be within your company.

Contrary to what you may believe (especially if you’ve ever had a particularly bad one), your annual review isn’t just an excuse for your supervisor to sit across from you and tell you everything you’ve done wrong. It is actually all meant to help you — and them — ensure that you are doing your best work, and working in an environment that allows you to get your best work done.

Aside from just being an excellent opportunity for the topic of a promotion or raise to be brought up (yassss, $$$), a lot of other important things can (and should!) happen during your review when you meet with your boss to discuss your performance.

So, what should be happening — and more specifically, what should you be doing — to make sure you get the most out of your review this year?

In a recent Forbes article, contributor Alissa Carpenter explores a few possible answers. In the article, Carpenter lists the seven things you should be focusing and reflecting on as you prepare for your review. To read all seven, you can read the full article here (and you really should — especially if you have a review coming up!), but I wanted to highlight and touch on the few that are, in my opinion, particularly important.

An extremely important part of being a successful member of an organization is goal-setting. As an employee, a professional, and a human being in general, you should be setting goals (both personal and professional) and striving to meet them always. Within the workplace, this is particularly important. An excellent gauge of how well you performed over the past year is analyzing the goals you set at the beginning of last year and seeing how well you succeeded in accomplishing them. Chances are, your employer pointed out a few areas for you to work on over the upcoming year, and you probably had some thoughts of your own on things you’d like to see happen in your professional life over the next year as you left last year’s review. So, look them over and give yourself a little mini-review. How did you do? What did you accomplish? What could you have done better? 

“Be prepared to discuss how you worked on your goals, what you improved on and what has changed,” says Carpenter. “Use specific examples during your conversation. If you haven’t met last year’s goals, discuss what support you need to make progress and what small steps you’ve made towards them.”

Other important things to discuss during your review are your career aspirations and areas of interest. You might work side-by-side with your employer every day, or you might not — but either way, chances are high that they don’t know everything about you, and this includes your ultimate goals, areas of expertise or interest outside of your role, and other projects within the company that you might be interested in spearheading, or at least being a part of.

“There may be new initiatives on the table that need to be staffed or an overseas client and they need a company representative to host a meeting,” Carpenter says. “Take this opportunity to share what future projects and teams you would be interested in working on.”

Sharing things with your employer that they might not know about you — like the experience you have in an area outside of your job description that may be useful in another department, or interests that you have unrelated to your job that might make you the perfect fit for a certain project — gives them a more holistic view of you as a person, and shows that you are willing to actively participate in all parts of the company and grow your role in all directions.

At the end of the day, your role at your company is so much more than what you read on the job listing when you applied — it is what you make of it, and what your employer helps you make of it. Your annual review is one of the very few opportunities you both have to get together as two separate working parts of the machine to figure out how you can best complement each other in the year ahead. A review isn’t something that you should walk into blindly expecting a list of grievances or songs of praise from your boss. It is something you should be preparing for in advance by reflecting on your own accomplishments, noting your weak spots, reviewing how you set — and met — your professional goals, and figuring out where you may fit in your company in the upcoming year. Make the most of your annual review, and you’ll be on track to making 2018 your most badass, personally fulfilling and professionally productive year yet.

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at

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