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How to ace your performance review & get a promotion

By Fi Darby | 15 September 2017

It's a known fact: performance reviews can be a challenge for most of us. They can be a great to hear how well you are doing but those ‘could do better’ messages can be hard to swallow even if you know that your employer has a point. "The biggest misconception about promotions is that they naturally occur with time," says UK-based career coach Denise Taylor. "It's not enough to think you deserve one; you must understand and clearly demonstrate how you meet the requirements."

Often you'll need to work through a performance review in order to gain a promotion. The important thing with performance reviews is to remember that they can be a positive experience. It will be your meeting as much as your manager’s so make sure that you get the most out of it. A well-managed performance review can lead to promotion and training opportunities. We look at how what you do both before and during your performance review meeting can make sure you get the promotion you deserve.

Before your performance review - think ahead

If you are really serious about seeking promotion at your performance review you will need to build up a series of positives in the year leading up to it.

performance review concept

#1: Make planning your mantra

Planning for promotion will ensure you cover all bases. Set yourself goals that relate to improving your skills and write them down. Make sure that you tick these off if you have completed them and work through them in an orderly way. 

#2: Consider those who are appraising you

Your managers will be watching your performance and results for the whole year. Be aware that everything you do, including the way you behave outside work, may come to their attention. 

#3: Make your employability skills obvious

It is important to make sure that your hard work throughout the year is recognised as you go along. Managers are busy people and might not notice your efforts unless you make them obvious.

#4: Take and make training opportunities

When training opportunities come up make sure that you take them. Not only will you learn new skills, you will get to know new contacts and appear keen to your managers. If training opportunities don’t arise, do your own research and make suggestions.

#5: Step out of your comfort zone

We all have areas of work with which we are more comfortable but to make a good impression and improve your measurable skillset you need to push yourself and volunteer for work assignments that you know will challenge you.

#6: Be a supporter

The ability to work well with other people is a key transferable employability skill. The people in your team will appreciate an approach that is supportive and encouraging. As well as that, teams with a cooperative approach often achieve better results than those that are over-competitive.

team working on business plan

#7: Be a leader

It is possible to be both a supporter and a leader at the same time. However, whereas a supporter will be recognised for his contribution to a team, a leader will be recognised for his strength and innovation. All of these employability attributes are desirable so push yourself to take the lead in situations even if that isn’t your natural inclination. Check out Three Steps to Thinking Like a Manager by Pamela Murray-Jones for tips on improving your natural leadership skills. 

#8: Tell people that you are interested in promotion

Telling your peers and colleagues that you want a promotion is fine, so long as you do this in a smart way. Let your managers know your intentions as this will indicate both your loyalty to the organisation and your eagerness to progress and learn new skills.

During your performance review – Be clear

Here are a few final tips to ensure that you hit all the right notes when you sit down with your direct report for your performance review. "If you are aiming for an internal promotion you need to get your boss on your side," Denise Taylor points out. "Schedule a one to one review meeting and let him/her know that you want to find out how you can be more effective at work."

#9: Plan the conversation beforehand

Success comes in business from planning what you want to say about promotion before you go into your performance review. Practise your conversation skills in advance and get a few key thoughts down on paper to make sure that you get your message across.

#10: Listen carefully to what your manager is saying

It is no good going into a performance review meeting expecting it to run entirely to your own agenda. There is a time and place for saying what you want to say, listen for natural opportunities or wait until the ‘any questions’ moment. Your manager will not be impressed if he/she thinks you are not paying attention so utilise some active listening skills such as using appropriate body language or positive reinforcement.

#11: Learn to accept both praise and criticism

The point of a performance review is to look at both strengths and weaknesses. Accept praise where it is due and remember to say thank you. Always acknowledge a third party if you feel they played a part in your success. Listen carefully to criticism and approach it with an attitude that will help you to solve that issue.

If necessary ask your manager how he or she would recommend moving forward. If you apply for promotional prospects you will be asked about your strengths and weaknesses at interview, if you can refer to what has been said in your performance review about these and show that you are already working on the weaknesses you will stand yourself in good stead.

woman boss giving young man praise for work

#12: Bring training suggestions to the table

Training and qualifications are a great way to ensure promotion. Do your research before your performance review meeting and find opportunities that will benefit both yourself and the organisation. Online training is a great way to study while you work as it can be done either out of office hours or within a work/study arrangement.

#13: Ask directly about forthcoming promotion opportunities

If ever there was a time to be direct about your wish for promotion then your performance review is it. This meeting is about you and your progress within the organisation and your manager should be happy to either discuss present opportunities with you or explain how you can prepare yourself for future ones.

A final note: remember to think of your future wholistically

Whilst your performance review meeting is a great time to discuss promotion opportunities it is important to remember that it is your performance throughout the whole year that will be the deciding factor. Start making your plans now and see your promotion dreams come true very soon.

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