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How to Prepare for a Performance Review
Suzanne’s tips on advancing your career

The anticipation of an upcoming performance review can make you more than a bit nervous. After all, it’s the one meeting that presents a summary of successes during the past year, and sadly, often represents the only time that many employees receive feedback on how they’re are doing at work.

Performance reviews elicit such questions as:

  • Will I get receive that salary increase I’m seeking?

  • Am I valued by my company, and/or boss?

  • How am I perceived by the powers that be?

For most of us, being on the receiving end of a performance review is a love/hate thing. We really want the feedback, but might not always like what we hear – particularly if our expectations for kudos and a salary increase are not met.

However, you can actually affect the outcome of the meeting more than you might expect. After all, you are in the best position to show what you’ve done throughout the year. So don’t be passive about your accomplishments or goals. Here are some tips to help you prepare for your performance review meeting and ensure favorable results:

Preparing for the performance review:

  1. Rate yourself first. Before you meet with your manager, access your own progress throughout the year. Did you meet the objectives that you were responsible for? Make a detailed list of the goals that you’ve achieved and how you have improved your skills, attitude, business relationships, etc. Education is a key for success in print production. Be sure to include in your merits both self-education and formal education provided.

  2. Pass your list of accomplishments on to your boss in advance to better help him/her prepare for your review. Print buyers and production professionals are often misunderstood in their own organizations. Your boss may not understand the relevance of what you do. It’s up to you to communicate how you’ve created value for your organization.

  3. It’s all about value. What tangible ways have you created value for your organization? Have you been responsible for decreasing the turnaround time of print projects? Saving money for your organization? Creating quality standards?

  4. Lobby for salary increases in advance. The fact is, salary increases are almost always decided well in advance of you walking into the performance review meeting. Most likely, your boss has discussed your merits and available funds with his/her boss weeks in advance. If you feel strongly that you deserve an increase in compensation, make your case at least a month prior to your review. To help your boss lobby for you, present her with concise, written documentation of your successes.

  5. Watch those expectations. While you may very well deserve a 20% increase in compensation, that amount of increase is rare. Salary increases, in a good economy, can average about 3% to10%. Given the current economy, your company may have a moratorium on increases. Be realistic about the resources your company can reward you with. Ask if there is a direct relationship between your performance and opportunities for increases, compensation and advancement.

  6. Be proactive. Set goals for yourself for the coming year and bring these to your meeting. Focus on how you can provide value for your company. Create a list of what you’d like to accomplish over the next year. There’s no guarantee that your manager will agree, but it could help influence the direction of your job and development of your skills. But do make sure your goals are obtainable – because you may be held to them!

During the performance review:

  1. Avoid discussing others during your performance review meeting. Your review meeting is about you and your own performance, so avoid discussing or comparing yourself to others. Focus on your merits, not the sins or successes of your colleagues.

  2. Reach consensus about your performance. Since compensation increases are based on performance, make sure that you and your boss agree on performance. If you disagree with your manager’s evaluation, be prepared to have documentation that supports your own assessment.

  3. If you are criticized for your performance, be sure to ask what you need to do to be successful in your manager’s eyes. Ask your manager to be as specific as possible.

  4. Request frequent feedback. You should never be shocked by the feedback you receive in your review meeting. If you find yourself in this situation, however, ask your boss to meet with you on a monthly basis to discuss your performance to ensure you both are on track.

  5. Managers are human too. Sometimes they don’t criticize or support us with words that we want or need to hear. Try to focus on the message, not the messenger.

  6. Ask what you are doing well. Less-than-perfect managers may focus only on the negatives. You need to know what you should be doing more, as well as where there’s room for improvement.

  7. When discussing your strengths and weaknesses, be honest. This helps to build credibility.

  8. Be clear on what is valued by your organization. So you’ve immensely improved the print quality of the organization’s monthly publications? If improved print quality isn’t really that important to anyone but you, you may be focusing on the wrong goals. How have you helped your organization meet its overall objectives?

Coming soon: How to GIVE a successful performance review!

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