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How to ace your first performance review

While the archaic annual performance review may be on its way out, the rules of the game are here to stay.

How to ace your first performance review

Annual performance reviews get a bad rap—and for good reason, too. With new demands, products, initiatives and direction given daily, measuring up against a goal you set a year ago makes for an awkward—and oftentimes irrelevant—discussion with your boss. That’s why IBM scrapped its annual performance review to join Adobe, Accenture, Gap and GE, among others, and surely, it’s a trend we’ll see more of.

These big names join nearly 10% of Fortune 500 companies who have done away with the annual evaluation, Cliff Stevenson, a senior research analyst told the Washington Post.

We know you’re jumping for joy, but consider this: Regardless of how it’s wrapped, companies will always need a goal-setting process and review. Doesn’t matter if it’s annual, weekly, daily—the rules of the game pretty much stay the same. So, as a new hire, what can you do to get ready for it? How do you handle the actual review? And then, what’s next?

Whether your company is using an ancient review process or a new one, we have the advice you need so that you walk out of your “fill-in-the-name” review feeling invigorated.

Before the review, you should...

List and review your goals

Even the best boss in the world can’t remember every single accomplishment you’ve ever had. That’s why “you should make a list of all you have accomplished in case your manager forgets,” advises Abby Kohut, a recruiter, speaker and career consultant at The goal of your evaluation is to see whether you’ve done the best job you could’ve “so having that list ready will avoid any awkward silences,” she says.

Heather Huhman, founder and president of Come Recommended, an HR technology PR firm headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, suggests maintaining a weekly log of tasks completed and a list of how your successes have contributed to the growth of the company. “Be sure to know your accomplishments because the individual performing the review will most likely ask how you fit into the company and what you brought to the team.”

Outline your strengths and weaknesses

Alison Green, a former hiring manager who runs the Ask a Manager blog, suggests you take the time to reflect and identify your strengths and weaknesses ahead of your evaluation.

“Spend time reflecting on the strengths you bring to the job, as well as what you'd like to do better,” says Green. “In fact, if you write up notes on all of this and provide it to your manager before he or she needs to finish his or her evaluation of you, there's a good chance that he or she will pull directly from it.”

During the review you should...

Be honest in your self-evaluation

You should really take your evaluation a step further and critique yourself. While it may seem easier to sugarcoat, be honest with yourself. What were the goals set for you? What did you set for yourself? Did you really accomplish them? Could you have done better? Was there a better way to reaching the end goal?

“Writing out an honest self-evaluation will give you a clear understanding of how you measure up to the expectations put forth, where you can improve and where you are strong, what your role looks like in the future and how you plan on improving individually to better your team,” says Huhman.

Ask questions

Don’t be scared to ask questions or bring up your own agenda items. According to Andre Lavoie, CEO at Clear Company, a talent management platform headquartered in Boston, it’s easy for managers to forget certain things, so you shouldn’t be afraid to bring up questions or discuss your personal goals.

“Performance interviews are an opportunity for you to improve in your current role, but you may also find out how you can get ready for the next position you want,” says Lavoie. “If you feel like something important is being overlooked, bring it up. This is the opportunity to ask any questions you have regarding your performance.”

After the review, you should…

Be open-minded

When it comes time to do your review, hiring managers advise you leave your ego at the door and go into it with an open mind—and leave that way, too.

“Don’t just hear what is being said, make sure you listen, take notes and ask questions,” says Huhman. “Your review is a dialogue. Don’t sell yourself short, but also, accept your shortcomings and ask for feedback.”

Leave with an action plan

Make sure when you exit this meeting that you understand what the next actionable steps are. What are your goals going forward? How will you reach them? How can you improve on any critiques? Remember, this is an opportunity for career growth. Don’t treat it as a one-and-done. “Use the review as a tool for advancing your career,” says Huhman.

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