“Hollaaaa, it’s annual performance review season!” said no one ever.
But let’s be real: Your finances are impacted just as much by your earnings as they are by your expenses. Annual reviews determine how much you get paid and for how long (AKA job security).
I’m getting knots in my stomach thinking about my former corporate days and the anxiety I had around performance reviews, but stepping outside my comfort zone to pull off a great review was worth it.
Advocating for myself and receiving praise makes me squirm, but I made my way into middle management by the time I was 26, managing 15-20% annual raises while my colleagues complained about their measly 2-3% and I survived 3 rounds of layoffs in less than 2 years.
Corporate banking wasn’t my passion, but being self-employed was. Over a relatively short term, I was able to make my way from receptionist to a manager in capital markets. I earned enough to live comfortably off less than half of my income so I could stash just as much away to build a significant safety net to start my own business.
Performance reviews might not require number crunching, but they directly impact your financial well-being. Your job growth and earning potential is a means to an end (that being your ideal life).
Even if it’s too late for 2016, let’s go over a few tips for making the most of this process for your best year yet!
WHAT TO DO OVER THE NEXT YEAR (AKA SHIT COMPANIES LOVE)
Take on new responsibilities.
Step out of your comfort zone and step into an area outside of your area of expertise. Help out a struggling department through a rough patch or take on new, more permanent tasks.
Strive for substantial progress.
Obviously, the better you perform to the benefit of your employer, the greater your chance for a raise or job security. Push yourself to be the best you can be and go the extra mile. (Practice self-care while you do this to avoid burnout! #guiltyascharged)
Learn new skills.
Attend night or online classes to learn something new. If it’s relevant to your career with your current employer, they might even reimburse you for some of the expenses. Innovation applies to both you and your employer.
Start new projects.
If you see an area of weakness or opportunity for improvement, take the initiative and get the ball rolling to improve something. We all have an easy time gathering around the water cooler complaining about our employer’s shortcomings – why not just fix them ourselves?
If you work within a team, stand out and take charge for the sake of the team. Propose new ideas, speak out in meetings, and delegate your responsibilities to take on new opportunities. A rising tide lifts all boats!
GOT YOUR GAME PLAN – NOW WHAT?
Identify your responsibilities and evaluate yourself throughout the year.
Trying to sort through an entire year’s worth of work the day or week before your review is daunting and you’re likely to forget a lot of details. (What did you even eat for lunch yesterday?) Make a list of all your responsibilities and rate your performance in each of those areas monthly or quarterly. Save notes or emails when you receive praise and recognition as it comes in.
Also, don’t be afraid to acknowledge and take responsibility for your mistakes and weaknesses – it builds credibility because ain’t nobody perfect! Note what you learned from those mistakes and how you implemented changes to avoid making the same ones again. Taking a step back to think through what you’ve done and how well you’ve done it will not only prepare you for the review – it will take the edge off receiving formal feedback because you will know what to expect.
Review your past goals and set new ones.
Create a list of your most significant accomplishments since your last performance review. Bonus points are awarded if you can quantify these achievements. Remember those SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely) goals! Businesses LOVE measurements. Vague verbs may look great on a resume but if you’re getting paid $X to do this job and you keep “successfully” “enhancing” “growth” – how will your raise be quantified? “Increased revenue by 20%” makes a much better case for a substantial raise.
The best way to advocate for your growth at a company is to make a business case for it. Your employer doesn’t care how hard you work or that the cost of living in your area is exceeding the rate of inflation. They care how your presence in the company positively impacts their bottom line and their business mission. Quantify everything you can: how many clients you help, how many files you work on, how many sales you make, etc. Then, measure the change over time.
Reference your last review and tie it into this one.
Good companies don’t carry out performance reviews as a formality – they use them to improve employee output to grow profits. Show that you are listening and acting on the feedback you receive. You can still get serious credit for your non-quantifiable growth and improvements if you can identify what you’ve been working on in the past year that is specifically referenced in your last review. “I was there, now I’m here – show me the money!” (Not in those words exactly.)
OH, SNAP! YOUR REVIEW IS TOMORROW. DON’T PANIC!
Practice reciting your accomplishments in front of your mirror so you can go in prepared. (Totally cool if you use a hairbrush as a mic like you do when you belt out Celine Dion, although don’t expect a mic at your review.) It’s totally professional to bring notes in with you but you need to get comfortable talking about yourself and asking for a raise.
Asking for a raise or promotion ain’t easy so the more you prepare for your ask, the easier it will be. Remember: it’s only business. Good businesses make good decisions to invest in resources that grow their profits. That resource could be you!
With these tips in place, you should have no problem rolling in the dough. As long as you have verifiable accomplishments and improvements that benefit the company, you’ll have serious leverage to ask for a raise.