Friday, April 23, 2010

Career Management: How to Ace Your Annual Review Meeting

Tips on how to prepare for your annual review meeting with your boss.

For most professionals, an annual review is as pleasant as a root canal. However, by using the 5 tips highlighted below, you can turn this around and instead use the time of your annual review to have a constructive conversation with your boss about your achievements and your future goals. This is especially important if you would like to develop key skills and knowledge that will help you emerge as a future CSR professional.

Tip#1: Review your projects and articulate your contributions

Your boss will talk at you if you let him/her. Like you, your boss has been asked to do more with less for the last 2 years, so chances are that your boss is not aware of all the projects you were involved in and of all the value you added to the department and the company. Instead of waiting for the annual review meeting, proactively construct your own agenda for the review meeting. Build a list of all the projects you were involved in. For each project, create three columns: the number of hours it took, the value you added to the project, and the results generated by the project for the team and for the organization. For example, if you volunteered to help the team with a new direct mail campaign, you can list that you proactively contributed 10 hours of your time (column 1), that your contributions included suggesting a new client segment to target based on your past experience on another similar project, helping with the design of 3 coupons, and contributing to the logistics of the direct mail campaign launch by distributing coupons through relevant local non-profits (column 2). Then list the results of your contribution to the direct mail campaign in column 3. These can include the % increase in coupon distribution or the % increase in responses as compared to the average the company usually get from similar direct mail campaign. Of course, if you have been involved in projects that had a social or environmental impact in your company, make sure to list these and indicate how much you learned and how interested you in these projects. This is the best way to plant a seed in your boss’ mind about your career development goals and project preferences.

Tip#2: Make your department (and boss) look good

Clearly show how your projects aligned with the company’s goals and values. Also show how your projects added value to enable your department and team to learn new things or approach challenges in innovative ways. We have all been asked to do more with less in the past two years. By showing that you thought about how you could do so as well will demonstrate your loyalty, as well as your abilities as a team player and a problem solver. I remember an administrative assistant, let’s call her Diane, who made an amazing contribution through a simple change. Diane was managing multiple projects across departments, and found it difficult to keep track of who was supposed to do what by when. She came across and attended a training program on a new online project management tool. She proposed that the teams she was working with use an online to coordinate each project separately. They could each work on the project from wherever they were, and could also send emails to one another about the project through the platform. She talked about it with her boss, who was skeptical but let her try. After an initial adaptation period, everyone was on board, and Diane was able to keep everyone on track more effectively, leading each team to decrease project completion time by 12%. Diane’s work became easier, as was that of her colleagues, and her boss. You can innovate and help your department in a number of ways. Think about your projects and how you can make them better. Then make sure to mention them during your written review and your actual review meeting. Projects that save paper, save energy or can be co-branded with local non-profits are great ways for you to gain experience and contacts within and beyond your company.

Tip#3: Send your list to your boss ahead of the meeting

In order for your performance to be fairly evaluated, send your list of accomplishments to your boss ahead of time (e.g. 4-5 business days before the meeting). As mentioned earlier, it is likely that your boss does not know all of the projects you contributed to. Set a positive tone by indicating that you look forward to your meeting with him/her. Your constructive approach will help your boss get a better sense of what you have accomplished and might help him/her realize how much you have done that he/she is unaware of. Also clearly highlight the projects that you participated in that had a positive social and/or environmental impact. This will help you establish yourself as an innovative team member that knows how to measure the social and environmental impacts of his/her projects. This will be remembered over time and might open doors for you in the future.

In the next post, I will add two more tips on how you can manage the review meeting itself, as well as on how to proactively build momentum from the meeting to emerge as an innovative team player. Your annual review is a unique opportunity for you to be recognized as an engaged team player with a clear career management plan.

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