It’s perfectly natural to feel anxious at the prospect of a performance review, but receiving regular honest feedback is critical to understanding your strengths as a professional, and the areas where you can improve.
Many employers are moving away from single, annual (often year-end) performance reviews and choosing more frequent “feedback” loops, check-ins, or self-evaluations instead. Regardless of how your workplace handles evaluations, we’ve got seven tips to help make performance reviews feel less of a burden and more of an opportunity.
1. Take Notes: Document Your Challenges & Accomplishments
Taking daily notes and making weekly reflections about your challenges and accomplishments is a great way to be prepared for any performance review or evaluation. You want to be able to show that you recognized opportunities to improve, and where you rose to the occasion. Journaling your performance means both you and your manager will have a full picture of what you are paying attention to and where your goals for growth lie, which is an important part of any evaluation. Take five-ten minutes at the end of each day to write down what you accomplished and what was or wasn’t working that day.
2. Prepare Your Own Report: Evaluate Yourself
While not all evaluation processes require a written report, you might find it a useful practice so that you can chronicle what you’ve worked on and gotten done over time. This sort of report doesn’t have to be a lot of work. Especially if you’ve been taking regular notes. You might start with a brief overview of your role, your key objectives, deliverables, and goals, along with measures of your progress or outcomes. You can jot down a bullet-point list of your accomplishments, and another list of what’s ahead in terms of goals and priorities until your next quarter or review. Not only will this be useful to prepare you for an evaluation, but it can also give you a roadmap on what you need to do next after the review. Keep in mind that if your employer requires a formal written self-evaluation that you adapt your personal evaluation to their format.
3. Celebrate Your Work, & Your Wins
You may talk to your partner or friends about how much work you’ve gotten done or how, despite obstacles, you were able to push through and do something great but you might not always frame it as a success—and that’s something to change. Celebrate those accomplishments, and when it comes to your evaluations—do the same thing. You don’t have to be arrogant, but don’t shy away from owning your achievements.
4. Keep Your Cool, & Breathe
Some people suffer more from anxiety than others. If you’re feeling anxious, give yourself five minutes to do some deep breathing and tell yourself—out loud—that you’re going to be okay. Most employers and managers genuinely want to see you succeed and understand how they can help you make the most of your talents. Remain calm and thoughtful, open to whatever feedback you receive, and reflect about what that feedback means. If you’re not sure about a particular comment or statement, ask clarifying questions. Even if you don’t agree with some of the feedback, try not to react in the moment. Instead, take some time after the meeting to formulate your thoughts and schedule a follow-up conversation, if needed.
5. Reframe Mistakes as Growth Investments, Everyone Makes Them
Sometimes, things go wrong. When they do, let your supervisor know, document what went wrong, and show how you learned from the experience. Good employers know that employees are not perfect and that failure can be a path to growth both for individuals and companies. Find the silver linings in your mistakes, and document how you grew and improved as a person and worker. Bringing a mistake to your boss and asking for help shows initiative, responsibility, and growth.
6. Remember: HR & Supervisors Are People Too
It’s easy to forget when you’re sitting on the other side of the desk from them—but the people who evaluate you are people, too. Treat your supervisors as respectfully and friendly as you would your coworkers; they’ll be more inclined to treat you the same way.
7. Be Honest About Your Strengths & Weaknesses
None of us are perfect. When any kind of critical process comes around, it can be easy to view your weaknesses as disastrous or terrifying … but say it with me: none of us are perfect. Being able to own up to your shortcomings—not just take responsibility for them, but to reframe them as growth investments—is one way to show your self-awareness, honesty, and growth potential. Your strengths make you an excellent person and employee and where you’re likely to receive the most praise, but recognizing which skills are weaker gives you the opportunity to develop them.
At the end of your evaluation, you may be asked if you have any final thoughts; use that time and space to be positive, talk about where you’d like to improve or learn more, and show that you’re focused on how you can contribute in the future.
So next time you’re facing a performance review at work, in whatever shape or form—try not to sweat it. Remember that evaluations are a necessary process to ensure that you’re on track and doing your best possible work. With the right approach—and the regular discipline of recording your projects, challenges, and growth—an evaluation can help you demonstrate your true value to your employer.
Jack Owens is a Boston-based creator with a love of good coffee, good food, and good writing. By night, he’s a writer, editor, and reader—by day, he’s a labor advocate and organizer for Graduate Employees at UMass Boston.