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9 surefire ways to ace your performance review

Written by: William Arruda
Published on: May 1, 2024

gold trophy

(Image: Canva)

It’s time for your annual review. Are you psyched?

You should be. Your performance review, believe it or not, can be a powerful force for advancing your career. So if you’re feeling cynical about the review process, change your mindset, put a smile on your face, and get ready to soar.

As with many activities in life, the most important step in the process is preparation. So in this piece, I’ll share with you nine essential prep steps for a perfect performance review.

1. Create a Wins Worksheet and a Fan File.
Make a regular habit of documenting your wins in what I call a Wins Worksheet. It’s a self-maintained record of achievements, such as increasing revenues, decreasing expenses, saving time, and making any kind of impactful change. Your Fan File is a collection of emails and cards you've received bestowing thanks or praise.

2. Review your job description.
If you don’t have one or it needs updating, take this opportunity to make an inventory of your role and responsibilities, from your perspective. Your performance review will be an excellent time to align your expectations for your position with those of your boss. To top it off, you can come to an agreement on what “exceeds expectations” looks like!

3. Review goals from your last performance review.
If you’re new to the position, or you simply don’t have any goals in writing, add this to your list of performance review objectives: Formulate goals for the next period and define what success looks like.   

4. Document three achievements for this period, backed up with specifics and examples.
To choose the top three, think of things you’re proud of that fall in the intersection of what’s important to your boss, what had an impact on the organization, and what proves that you are ready to move forward.

5. Identify three goals or areas in which you plan to develop in the upcoming period.
Your goals can include both work-based and personal development objectives. Achieving in both categories will lead to greater earning potential. As you choose your top three, consider which goals are most important to your boss.

6. Gather feedback.
You will be perceived as more objective in your self-reflection if you arrive for your review with copies of feedback from others. In some corporate cultures, the boss gathers feedback from others. If this is not the norm in your workplace, remember: It’s your career. Own it.

7. Write your own performance review.
Preparation is essential. Pull together your achievements, goals, feedback, and needed resources into a concise and structured format, so that you are fully prepared for the review. Depending on your corporate culture and your boss’s needs, you might consider loading the data into a formal written deck or PowerPoint presentation to share.

8. Identify your differentiation.
Most reviews don’t happen in a vacuum. You are being evaluated alongside your peers. So take some time to identify what you uniquely bring to the table. What makes you unique makes you successful.

9. Prepare mentally.
Fuel and focus are foundational to a successful review. Rushing to your meeting with your boss will impact your ability to be compelling. Get enough sleep, eat healthfully, and don’t have something in your calendar immediately before or after your review. To maintain a sense of Zen, you may want to try a one-minute meditation. It will keep you focused. Here’s a link to a powerful one-minute meditation.

William Arruda is the cofounder of CareerBlast, which helps professionals develop their personal brand.

This article was fact-checked and updated in May 2024, and originally appeared in Forbes.

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