Using a Performance Review to Your Advantage

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Chances are, you left your last performance review with a list of at least a few areas for improvement and professional goals for the upcoming year. You might have even been inspired to work on those targets at the time. But can you even locate that list today?

If you’re like most employees, you find appraisals worthwhile — in a Robert Half Technology survey, 77 percent of workers polled said they consider the feedback from performance reviews to be valuable.

But once the meeting is over, it’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind. You might have problems from end-users to resolve, meetings to attend, network security issues to address. And the copy of the review with all your key objectives quickly gets filed away or lost in a sea of papers.

If that’s the case, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage. Those action items are likely to come up in future discussions with your boss, and if you fail to follow through on input received, it can damage your career prospects. The goals were intended to help you not only fulfill your current job responsibilities but also advance professionally, meaning it might take you longer to achieve your aspirations if you don’t dig up that appraisal and get to work.

Make Sure It’s Relevant
The first step is to take a good look at the list and determine what’s applicable today. This is particularly important if your review was more than six months ago because job requirements might have changed since then. For instance, you might have been encouraged to take a training course to strengthen your .NET skills for a particular project, but if the project has been canceled, you’ll want to devote attention to more-pressing action items instead. You might want to schedule a meeting with your boss to verify today’s top priorities.

Stick to It
Next, make your list of objectives visible — transfer it to a format that will stay top of mind. For example, you might post your goals on your cubicle wall or in your BlackBerry. The key is selecting a spot where it won’t get buried.

Then, break down larger objectives into smaller tasks. This can make things less overwhelming and help you stay on track with what you need to accomplish. And set up a timeline to help you plan and monitor your progress. If you are striving to become better organized, for example, you might set a date to take a related class, schedule a time to clean up your desk and figure out when to get all the tech gear in the storage room in order.

Hold Yourself Accountable
If you aren’t already giving your manager updates on your professional goals, try to incorporate them into ongoing communication by including a line in weekly status reports, for instance. Also, enlist the support of mentors and colleagues. The more accountable you are, the more motivated you will be to keep moving forward with your objectives.

Build on Your Goals
Remember: Most action items from your performance review don’t have an expiration date. When it’s time for your next appraisal, be careful not to get so focused on new expectations that you forget about previous feedback. The comments and suggestions you receive each year are meant to build on previous ones, not serve as replacements.

Continuously striving to enhance your skill set and job performance is essential to your career success. But don’t limit yourself to the goals given annually by your supervisor — look for ways to stretch your abilities every day by volunteering for new projects and taking the initiative to solve problems. You’ll show your manager that you truly understand what it takes to be a valuable employee and set yourself apart from those who just invest the minimal effort.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. She can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.

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