How should I prepare for my performance review?
It's never too early to start thinking about your next performance review. In fact, we recommend walking out of your current review with goals for the next one. That being said, you will have plenty of preparation to do right up to your next review.
First things first, know the date (or ballpark range) of your next performance review. So often, these reviews creep up on us and we find ourselves wishing we hadn't taken so many vacation days right before the last project deadline.
Set your own expectations. Performance reviews provide a great opportunity to discuss the goals for your role, assess whether your job description is accurate and serves the goals of your role. They're also the right time to discuss your professional goals. But above all else, your performance review should be an opportunity to show off all that you've done since the last review.
The goal is to avoid surprises.
Performance reviews are best when expectations around actions, behaviors, and responsibilities are agreed upon ahead of time and you check-in on those (ideally weekly or at a regular cadence). That's what those 1:1s are for!
Before your performance review:
Consider your last review. What was discussed? Did you set any goals with your manager? Did they give you clear feedback?
Write out all the work you have accomplished since your last review. What have you accomplished? What have been your biggest successes or proudest moments? What has not gone as expected and agreed on? Note: It's common to undervalue seemingly small contributions. When you're making this list, write everything!
Make note of what you would like to accomplish in the future and how you would like to continue your professional development. What would you like to achieve professionally? How would you like to keep developing? What skill gaps would you like to fill over the coming months?
Set an intention or desired outcome. What tone do you want the assessment to have? What would you like the outcome of the performance review to be? Is your goal to get a promotion? Know your goal and, like we said earlier, don't let surprises happen!
Prepare in detail for any asks. If you are intending to ask for a raise or a promotion, or to make changes or updates to your job description, make a detailed plan around how to present your ask and do your research to make sure you are prepared.
Identify potential emotional triggers - Performance reviews can bring up unexpected feelings and/or emotional reactions. Identify potential triggers (i.e., your manager provides you with surprising constructive feedback and it upsets you). Create a plan for how to manage these triggers (i.e., take deep breaths and ask clarifying questions or maybe reschedule the rest of the meeting until you are able to clear your head and organize your thoughts)
Practice with a friend.
Your performance review shouldn't have surprises (for you or your manager). Get everything out into the air during your regular check-ins. In this way, you will know that the two of you are on the same page. From here, your goal is to look as awesome as possible. This is not the time to highlight your failures throughout the year. While you'll likely need to acknowledge these, your goal is to keep the conversation on what you did well.
Imposter syndrome is real. Often if you've failed to get clear feedback from your manager, you can find yourself in a performance review worried that you will get fired. Be kind to yourself and base your expectations in as much factual data as possible.
At the same time, you want to avoid going into a performance review with too much confidence. For example, if you missed your sales targets all quarter and your manager has given you regular feedback on the potential consequences, it might not be wise to ask for a promotion.
One way to avoid looking too confident or, conversely, falling victim to imposter syndrome, is to get your manager talking. "How do you think the past quarter has gone?" The more you can get them to share their thoughts, the easier it will be to back into your questions around promotions, salary increases, new responsibilities, etc.