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How to ace your next performance review

By Ben Madden

It’s performance review season, which can involve some big conversations with your manager/s. However, it’s also a great time to show your workplace why you’re set to be a big part of their future growth. If you’re looking for tips on how to prepare for your next performance review (as well as what to avoid saying during one), then read on!

What is a performance review?

A performance review is a formal session that gives your manager/s the chance to assess your performance in the workplace. It’s a formal setting where all parties can discuss your strengths and weaknesses, set goals, and plan for your future as part of the business. While many leaders will provide more frequent informal feedback, it’s a way for both employees and employers to remain accountable in the workplace.
A performance review is also a chance for employees to demonstrate the work that they’ve been putting in to grow as a professional. While gaining new skills and knowledge can improve your performance at work, it can be hard to demonstrate this growth to your managers if they’re not directly overseeing what you’re doing day-to-day. After all, the leadership team will have a lot of competing priorities that they’re trying to juggle at any one time. While performance reviews can be a bit scary, they’re also a great chance to show your value and growth since the last time you caught up with your boss!

How to prepare for a performance review

  1. Review your goals
  2. Prepare data/evidence
  3. Consider further study (to build your skills)
  4. Reflect on your feedback
If you’re preparing for a performance review, then it’s important to know what you want to get out of the limited time you’re given. While it is a time for your employer to assess you, it’s also a chance to get a sense of where you sit in their plans going forward. Use the time beforehand to review your goals (including whether you’re currently meeting them or need assistance in meeting them in the future) and prepare some questions to ask during the chat. It shouldn’t be a one-way street – after all, a performance review is a conversation!
Preparing data can also help you make your case when you’re preparing for a performance review. For example, if you work in sales, keep a list of the people you’re contacting, the meetings you’re booking and the deals you’re signing. Having empirical data will help show your value to your team and help you make a case if you’re looking to take your next step in your career. It’s almost impossible to argue with numbers!
If you know that your job will involve regular performance reviews, then further study can also help you work towards the goals that are outlined in each performance review. This is especially useful if you’re looking to be internally promoted/asking for a raise. You can point to the further study that you’ve completed to illustrate why you’ve been able to increase the value to the company, making your case for increased renumeration/responsibilities even stronger. You can learn more about Upskilled’s range of further study options here.
After the performance review is done, make sure you start planning your next steps while the feedback you’ve been given is still fresh in your mind. If you’ve had a frank discussion about your performance, then talk with your trusted network about how you might change things in the future. If your employer wants you to push yourself, then think about further study or other professional development that might help build your skillset.
Received nothing but glowing feedback? Keep going with what you’re doing, but don’t grow complacent – it’s always best to keep learning and challenging yourself.

What should you not say in a performance review?

Performance reviews can get the better of anyone, so it’s important to have a clear mind and think through what you’re going to say. Receiving constructive criticism might not always come naturally, which can cause you to say things you might regret down the track. Examples of things you shouldn’t say in a performance review include:

  • “It wasn’t my fault that…”
  • “I wasn’t aware of…”
  • “It was X’s responsibility to…”
  • “Why isn’t X receiving the same treatment, they…”
  • “I’m not capable of…”
  • “I shouldn’t be expected to…” 
All these statements are negative and aren’t reflective of your capabilities in the workplace. If the leadership team at your workplace believes you’re able to achieve something, then chances are you can. Speak with authority, don’t diminish your achievements and don’t place blame at the feet of others. That way, you’ll walk out of a performance review knowing you represented yourself as best as possible.
If you don’t achieve the outcome you were looking for from the review, then it’s important to stay professional. It’s not the time to say or do anything rash. Instead, take the feedback from the review on board and book in a time in the near future to reassess whether circumstances and your skillset have changed. Remember, being denied a promotion/raise is temporary, not permanent!
If you’re looking to take the next step on your career journey, then Upskilled’s SkillsTalk blog can help. SkillsTalk features informative articles that’ll help you make the most of your time in the world of work. You can check out SkillsTalk here!
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