Even if you already love your job, you’d probably love it a little bit more if you made an extra $2,000 every month, or if you worked from home on Fridays, or if you had a corner office, or if … well, you get the picture. When you’re asking what your company can do for you, there’s almost always room for improvement.
So how can you help your superiors keep you happy? Organization and preparation are the keys. That way, at your next performance review, you’ll be able to list your accomplishments—and back them up with visual aids, if necessary. If you can demonstrate how very good you are at what you do, your company will want to keep you around. You may not get unlimited use of the company jet, but you might make enough money to fly first class instead of coach on your next vacation.
If you dread each approaching performance review, you’re looking at them all wrong. Use your review as a chance to honestly reflect on how you help to propel your company forward—and how you can work even more effectively. You can make your next review your best ever by following these five easy steps:
1. Pull out your past reviews
Most companies provide some sort of written evaluation. Study yours carefully. If this is your first review, go back to your original job description and/or work agreement and use that instead. Take a look at the format: Does your supervisor list specific incidents, or does the review talk only in general terms? Were you asked to acquire certain new skills? Have you done so? Address each item in turn, and write down your responses.
2. Go through your inbox
Search for e-mail from your supervisor or manager that congratulates you on a job well done. I’m fairly sure you saved the good ones. (In fact, it’s a good idea to create a special folder specifically for those messages. Whether you title it “Review” or “Proof of My Greatness” is entirely up to you, but you need to highlight specific areas where your work really stood out or helped the company in some way.) Print copies of three to 10 complimentary e-mails, but make sure that for every one, you can say precisely what you did that was so great. Was the client so happy that he ordered another four-year prepaid service contract? Did you find a hardware solution that saved the company $10,000? Go for those, and skip the e-mails about how funny that joke you sent everyone was.
3. Address the negatives
It happens. You missed a deadline, made a mistake, or couldn’t do something you were asked to do. Acknowledge it, but be sure to note what you learned from the situation and how you’ll prevent it from happening again. The key here is not to get defensive—not when you’re thinking about it, and definitely not when you’re talking about it. Banish the words “It wasn’t my fault” from your vocabulary. To quote Kevin Spacey in It’s a Bug’s Life, “The first rule of management: Everything is your fault.”
4. Ask for suggestions or help
Give your manager a chance to state his or her concerns, and ask how he or she thinks you can do better. For example, your manager could say, “Mark, I’m really happy with your dedication to the company and the hours you’re willing to put in, but I’m worried that you don’t always communicate well with the rest of the team.” Take a deep breath, fight your urge to communicate your disdain, and say, “Can you give me some suggestions for how I could improve my communication with the rest of the team?” You’re parroting your manager’s language back to her, so she’ll feel vindicated. You’re asking for her help, so she’ll feel magnanimous. And the solution might be as simple as sending out daily or weekly e-mail progress reports to keep your coworkers up-to-date. Now really, was that so hard?
5. Ask for what you want
Once you’ve made your case—shown everything you’ve accomplished and worked out a plan for continued success and improvement—you’re ready to hit ‘em up for the bucks. Or the extra vacation days. Or whatever it is you’re after. But they can’t know what you want if you don’t tell them. So say something like, “I’ve learned so much here over the past year—it’s been an incredible opportunity for me to gain all these additional skills. To keep my salary in line with these skills, I’d like a salary increase of [fill in the blank].” Remember: Be flexible. Yeah, they’ll always cry about the budget, but a lot of companies really are hurting. So be ready to ask for extra days off in lieu of a raise, or better benefits (say, for the company to cover 100 percent of your spouse’s health insurance).
Preparing for a performance review doesn’t have to be a chore. If you organize the relevant information once, it’ll be at your fingertips whenever you need it. And if the company can’t afford to keep your talented self in the manner to which you deserve, this preparation will serve you well as you seek out new digs with an organization that will cater to your every whim.