Annual Review Time: My favorite time of the year!

Now you might think I am being sarcastic with a headline like that, but the truth is I love my annual review.   Annual Reviews can be awkward or uncomfortable for some - but they are also an amazing opportunity to chart your course for your career and to have a rich dialog with your manager and leadership.     Several years ago I shifted from a passive to an active approach to annual reviews and it has made a huge difference in my reviews, my career and my trajectory.

Approaching an annual review from a passive place doesn't do anyone any favors.   Common errors in the annual review process include:

1.    Waiting for your manager to notice your accomplishments
2.    Asking where they see you being in several years
3.    Asking what they want you to do
4.    Acting the review as if it something that happens *to* you

An annual review done well is a summary of the conversation that you have been having with your manager over the course of the past year.     I often use it as an opportunity to reflect on where I have come and where I am planning to go.    No matter what your goals, there are some easy ways to become an active participant and partner in the process.   A good manager will thank you for being proactive as it makes their job much easier.

Tips for a proactive Annual Review:
1.    Read the job description of the next position up at your company and take note of the skills and experiences necessary
2.    Shape your personal goals specifically around gaining ground in these areas.
3.    If you are more interested in a lateral move or trying different responsibilities– this is your opportunity to articulate that and move towards that.
4.    Familiarize yourself with the company's broader goals for the next year.   Brainstorm at least one personal goal that will help move the company's goals forward.
5.    If you feel that your manager and other members of leadership are not familiar with your skills and experience, develop goals to showcase that.   Get creative - write a blog, mentor another employee, find ways to make your "invisible skills" visible
6.    Keep your goals in mind throughout the year.     Post them someplace you will encounter them often
7.    Document everything.

I am serious about documenting everything.    My manager had to develop a special folder in his outlook for "Max's Review."   We've now moved from that to a shared document that we can both update throughout the year, and we talk about it regularly.     Here's they key:   Your manager is often not privy to all of the great feedback received throughout the year, or the accomplishments made -- especially if you are doing a great job.    It is essential to share this with your manager both in an ongoing way and at review time, so that they can make informed decisions about salary and promotions and have the evidence to back it up.

A very simple and elegant approach to this is to keep a document easily available that contains your goals.   When you have accomplished something concrete, document it in your review document.  When receiving feedback about a job well done - from a coworker or a client - forward that email to your manager and put a copy of it in your document as well.    You can share your document with your manager about a month before review time to help refresh their memory of the past year.   If there were concerns about performance or even just simple feedback in the past year - make sure that you include those as well and how you incorporated those experiences in your plans for growth.

It is important to remember that your annual reviews become the summary document that the leadership of your division or your organization look at over time when evaluating raises & promotions.     Taking ownership and initiative with your annual review is a way to own your brand internally and showcase your initiative, accomplishments and how you are an asset to the company.