One of the perks of not being in school anymore is that your days of receiving grades are long gone. At least, that’s what it seems like at first.
Every day you’re in the working world, you’re being graded by your superiors and colleagues. Unless you’re receiving consistent feedback from your manager, which is no guarantee, you may have no way to gauge your progress at work—until it’s time for your annual review.
But that end-of-the-year evaluation doesn’t need to be scary; an annual performance review is a chance for you to have an open, honest conversation with your boss about how they perceive your work performance—as well as what your opportunities for growth are. Make sure you’re going into yours as prepared as possible with these easy steps (that will also help you land that raise).
Do the math
In an ideal world, your review will be a series of glowing compliments with an offer of a big, fat raise at the end. You’ve worked crazy hard for the past 12 months—the least you can get is a little acknowledgement, right? Wrong. Your boss may have generally positive feelings about your work, but chances are, they weren’t keeping as good of track of your progress as they should have.
Even if your review is going well, you owe it to yourself to come armed with stats about your career successes from the past year. Before your review, prep a few notes about your work successes. You may have to do some calculations to impress your supervisor. Did you grow your company’s Twitter followers by 25%? Write it down. If you found a new tool that increased your team’s productivity, estimate how much time and money you’ve saved.
Illustrating how you increased revenue or helped save the company money can be instrumental in receiving a raise. However you measure success in your job, come up with some cold, hard facts about why you’re killing it.
Tell the truth
In theory, an annual review is an appropriate time to raise any concerns you’re having. Your boss has an opportunity to critique your performance, so it’s only fair you can share any struggles you’re experiencing. But before you raise any complaints, evaluate how honest you can truly be. Does your boss take critical feedback well? Do they look at employees who air complaints as “difficult?” Even if your boss is receptive to feedback, tread lightly. You don’t want your boss to think you’re unhappy at work and that you want to leave, or they may not fully invest in your future at the company.
If a raise is your top priority, you may want to hold off on voicing any complaints unless absolutely necessary or if they help support your justification for a raise. For example, if you took over a colleague’s responsibilities when they left and your workload increased, that is a complaint that can help make your case. Too many complaints may distract from your goal.
If you do have complaints to make, pepper the conversation with compliments about your manager or some insight on why you love your job. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, after all.
Know what you want
Now is not the time to waffle. When you go into your review, you should know exactly what you want. A raise, a promotion, or an office are the biggies—but those milestones aren’t going to happen every year.
If your job description has evolved over the past year, consider asking for a title change. Want to learn more about your industry? See if your manager will expense education resources or a trip to a conference for you. If you want to move desks because you don’t get along with one of your coworkers, now is the time to ask. Your boss is less likely to be taken aback by requests during your annual review. Take advantage of the opportunity.
Have a plan
You won’t be able to solve all your work-related issues on your own, but coming to your manager with a list of complaints and no potential solutions could frustrate them. Make an effort to present possible solutions for any struggles you’re having at work. If you’re happy at work but still want to make changes, like taking on bigger projects, you’ll need to offer solutions. Before your review, ask yourself: If your manager is open to what you want, do you have a way to make it happen? Your boss will be much more receptive to change if they see a way to help right off the bat.
Remember practice makes perfect
You’ve done a lot of work to prep for this review. You’ve kept track of all the compliments you’ve received from clients, thought hard about what you want, and have considered areas you can improve on. That effort will pay off, especially if you practice. Your level of nerves will depend on how comfortable you are with your manager and how confident you are in your performance. Practicing any requests or complaints you have—I’ll take a raise, please!—will make the conversation go so much smoother.
Ask your best friend or a family member to practice the conversation with you. You’ll work out any kinks in the conversation and will be less likely to trip over your words when you’re nervous. Be prepared to receive and respond to constructive criticism as well. You should be aware of any areas you need to improve on. Also, remember not to get defensive. It’s better to prepare confident responses for how you can overcome any struggles.
If you’re asking for a raise, this is an especially important step. Use this time to practice a convincing ask. Outline why you think you deserve a raise (now is the time to use the evidence you collected) and how much of a raise you’d like (start high so your company can offer lower).
Relax, you got this
You know you’ve been killing it at work. Unless they are bad at their job, any critiques your manager has shouldn’t come out of the blue. Going into your annual review calm and composed will impress your manager even more. When your review is glowing (of course it will be!), make sure you celebrate after. You’ve earned it.