Junior year of high school, my history teacher told us to give ourselves a grade on a project. I gave myself an A-minus. I was surprised when I saw that he then gave me an A-minus too. I asked him why he gave me an A-minus when I clearly had done “A” level work. His response: “You gave yourself the A-minus.” I asked him if he thought I had done better than that and he said yes, but he also asked me why I didn’t give myself the “A” if I thought I deserved it. My response: “I didn’t want you to think I was full of myself.” Lesson learned. You aren’t being full of yourself if you are being objective about your work product.

Going into my first year-end review in my first job ever, I really had no idea what to expect. I was at a company where reviews followed a very strict process and are even cheered by other companies as best practice. I was evaluated against an employee performance review document that clearly explained what was expected of me, and before the review, I was asked to write about my performance. Sitting down to write about how I thought I was doing was not a simple task, but in the back of my head, I was haunted by my 11th grade history teacher’s lesson.

While it is, and continues to be, a terrifying time, your year-end review is a time to share your successes and also align with your manager on the areas where you need to improve. If your review is done well, you should leave feeling better than you did going into the meeting. In fact, you should feel encouraged and motivated to continue growing and developing as a professional. In order to be able to do that, follow these four tips I picked up from my own reviews, and now, from being on the other side of the review process as a manager.

1. Prepare

To get the most out of a review, you really should be preparing all year long. On a weekly basis, write down what you’ve accomplished and save notes of thanks and congratulations. If you haven’t been doing this all year long, it’s never too late to start.

It’s likely you have accomplished a lot, so you need to sit down and write it out before the meeting. When I have my team at Levo do this, one person always complains, but then thanks me after she finishes because she gets the chance to take a step back and see just how much she has done. Even if your review process doesn’t require writing, it still might be the right thing for you to do so that you feel prepared with answers of what you’ve accomplished, what skills you have developed and what areas you’d like to improve.

2. Ask for Feedback from Your Peers

From my personal experience and observing others, we as young women tend to not toot our own horns very well. Self-promotion is really hard for us to do, but we tend to be great at cheering on our friends. That is why I suggest asking your trusted peers at work about what they think you really do well — you might be surprised at what they say. It would also be a good idea to return the favor and tell them what you think they are exceptional at in their role.

3. Identify What You Need to Improve

The point of a review is to discuss progress. Your goal as an employee should be to deliver and then go one better. Coming into your review meeting with areas where you need to improve and thoughts about how you can improve will show that you, A) are serious about advancing; and B) can provide your employer with confidence that you will be able to improve.

4. Remember Your Last Review and Connect It

As a manager, I want to see improvement. If someone can demonstrate that they heard my feedback, have actively worked to improve upon it and then seen results, there is simply nothing better you can talk about in a review.

What else do you do to prepare for your review? Tell us in the comments section!

Photo courtesy of Dulce Candy