Careers advice: How to get the most from your performance review

28 June 2021

Although the thought of it may make you groan a little, annual performance reviews are an opportunity to reflect on your past and future career. Alumni Careers Manager Caroline Egan shares some advice on how to make your performance review work best for you. 

At this stage in the year, you have probably either had or are about to have your annual performance and/or development review. After reflecting on the last year, you will be having a conversation with your manager about what you have achieved, what your future goals are, and what your development needs are.

Why is it important for you?

Your development review is an important moment in your ‘career year’: it is not just about your achievements and future aspirations, it is an opportunity for you to think about how engaged and motivated you are. The sense of moving forward in our working lives is important, because it motivates and inspires us. Your company will also want to gauge how motivated you are to develop because career progression drives both employee engagement and productivity. If you are not feeling energised or engaged in your current role and career path, and you don’t have a clear career goal to work towards, your performance review is an opportunity for you to talk to your Line Manager about ways to develop by gaining new skills and experiences, which will ultimately benefit the organisation too.

Top tips to prepare for a productive performance review

Career development reviews like those described above encourage individuals to take control of their career path and to demonstrate that they are serious about their future within an organisation. However, for some it may still be difficult to initiate and engage in professional development conversations. Here are ten tips to make your conversations more constructive and ultimately more successful:

1. Time

In a busy work environment, it is crucial you and your manager have sufficient time to fully address your career aspirations and progression. However, preparation is key to ensuring you make the best use of the time you have.

2. Reflect on your goals and key achievements 

Talk to colleagues and ask them what significant contribution they think you have made to the team as a whole: you may be surprised at what they have seen and noticed about you, both in terms of  how you did it, as well as what you did.

Especially if one-to-one time is rare in your office, reviews are helpful for getting your ‘burning’ questions answered. It could be about the status of your team or department, or the goals of the company, or possibilities for career growth (like budget to get some professional development help).

3. Review your current goals

Did you set goals at your last review? Or, do you have some personal ones of your own? Either way, reviews are a great time to look back at what you were hoping to accomplish and see if you achieved them.

If you met your goals, what did you learn along the way? Which ones are you most proud of? How can you build on them in the future?

If you didn’t achieve them, how far did you get? Did your priorities change? What held you back? What can you do differently going forward?

Make some notes to discuss these further with your manager when you meet.

4. Research

If you have a career opportunity or development need in mind, research it and be clear about the benefits to the company, and how you will be able to add value to the organisation should you be able to take advantage of it.

5. Set some new goals

Now you know how far you have come, you can decide where you want to go. Do this by setting some realistic yet ambitious goals. Consider the following:

  1. What skills would you like to master by your next review?
  2. What responsibilities do you want to take on?
  3. What projects are you passionate about pursuing?
  4. What weaknesses or skills gaps would you like to improve on?
  5. What goals would you like to continue to build on?
  6. What role do you want to aim for one to three years from now? What can you do now to put yourself in the running?

6. Develop relationships

Developing good relationships with colleagues can be useful when developing your thoughts and ideas about career progression or changes to your current role. Hearing about other people’s experience can focus your career goals and help frame your thoughts towards your development.

7. Prepare to be brave

Maybe you’re going to have to raise your hand to discuss bigger issues? For example, now’s a good time to talk about the fact that you’re no longer challenged by your role or you’d like to consider an internal transfer. Having these conversations is hard, but being well-prepared for discussions by articulating the merits of your argument makes it easier and more likely you will be successful.

8. Express a willingness to engage in learning and development opportunities

Demonstrating that you are willing to engage and manage your own development will be noticed and build commitment to your future from your manager.

9. On the day

Be prepared to respond positively to feedback – if you have regular one-to-ones with your Manager, a review should not the first time you hear feedback, but if you do receive some constructive feedback, own up to your mistakes and be ready to offer a solution or show initiative to do better.

10. Give yourself a pat on the back

Finally, give yourself some credit for what you’ve achieved over the last year. In a results-driven world it can be easy to focus on what we have not yet achieved and overlook all that we have: remember to spend as much time focusing on your past successes to help build your confidence to take the next step.

If you are a member of our alumni community and you need support with any aspect of managing your career, you can access our online Career Management Module

Alumni can also access an exclusive event on Monday 19 July, hosted by the WBS Singapore Alumni Regional Ambassadors and Network. Daniele Pigni, Organisational Psychologist and Talent Management expert at Google (Singapore), will speak about developing habits which increase your professional value on the job market, and how to approach critical decisions which can suddenly change your career trajectory.