Using Your Annual Performance Review to Boost Your Career

Many companies administer annual performance reviews out of habit. In the often fatal “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” attitude, business leaders spend year after year asking the same old questions, rarely circling back on previous review periods or outdated objectives.

Even in the case that companies are diligent about providing valuable feedback and nurturing employee development throughout the review process, many employees are simply not prepared enough to engage in the process in a way that will benefit their career.

But the truth is, in either case, the annual performance review is a genuine opportunity to boost your career.

Getting Beyond the Basics

The need for approval is an innate human need. We like getting affirmative feedback, verifying we’re doing a good job. Your typical employer knows they need to provide this kind of feedback in order to motivate their employees. But a productive performance review needs to go beyond this.

In preparing for your annual performance review, you need to dig deeper. Ask your employer specific questions about focus areas they believe you can improve on. Be realistic about objectives you may have fallen short on in the previous year, and discuss how you can grow from this.

On the more positive side, how can you use major accomplishments to help you achieve even greater goals within the company? What do these mean for your career path? What are your long and short term career goals and how do those fit in with your current role?

Getting Business Oriented

Even if your employer is one that values annual performance reviews and does an exceptional job discussing the ins and outs of your current and future role with the company, their primary focus at the end of the day is still their specific business goals and objectives. Yes, individual employees matter enormously, but there’s still the big picture to keep in mind.

It’s important to find out how you’re doing as an individual employee, but it’s equally important to ask questions about how the business is doing as a whole. Don’t hesitate to ask about business goals and trajectories. This is the only way to find out how your own career expectations fit in with the company. Is there room to grow? How can you help the company achieve some of those objectives? Do you have the opportunity to make a difference?

Getting Action Focused

The biggest reason why so many people seem to think that annual performance reviews are obsolete and unnecessary is that they are often an interruption and lack any action points for next steps. It’s a fair point, but one you can easily overcome.

Having learned some valuable information in the last two steps – getting beyond the basics and getting business oriented – you can now formulate actionable next steps, complete with goal deadlines. For example, what strengths do you want to capitalize and improve on? What needs to be done in order to do that? What can of timeline can you expect. How can your employer help you in achieving that goal and how does that goal align with the company’s business goals? And most importantly, how will you be held accountable in working towards that goal?

You should be as prepared for your performance review as you would be for an interview. Make sure you have a clear view of your past year as well as what you want for the next year. Make a list of pertinent questions about the business and the future of your role. Be realistic and aim to comprehend some of the larger picture at hand. Ultimately, if you prepare well, the annual performance review should be a large stepping stone on the way to boosting your career.

At JDP Search, we love seeing our candidates grow in their careers. We work closely with you to determine your goals and preferences in conjunction with your experiences and skill sets. Let us know how we can help you navigate your career path today.