1. Perform a self-assessment. Take some time to critically assess your own performance, looking at both the good and the bad plus everything in between. Try to take the perspective of an outsider looking in. If you have a copy of the review form from years past, grab it and look at each factor in detail. Otherwise, consider these questions:
2. Know your goal. The review process is your opportunity to get direct feedback regarding your performance and future with the company. It's a dialogue that should help both the employee and the employer. While some may view it as simply "checking the box," push yourself to define exactly what you'd like to get out of it.
This is your chance to ask for whatever it is you want or need from your employer. Perhaps you'd like some one-on-one coaching or additional training regarding a challenge you're facing. Maybe you want some recognition for all your hard work on a specific project. In some cases, it may be time to ask for a raise or promotion, or maybe you just want to open the discussion about your career path and potential opportunities.
Whatever it is, get clear on your goal and practice the questions you'd like to ask. It can be difficult to bring some of these things up when you're sitting face-to-face with a superior, so consider creating a bullet point list of items you'd like to discuss.
3. Take evidence. If you haven't already started this, now is the time: Always keep a file of accolades and evidence of your professional accomplishments. Take note of anything you do that creates a positive impact on the team or the organization as a whole. Write down specific actions you took and the results you achieved—details can easily be forgotten.
With proof in your hands, it's much easier to point to the positive aspects of your performance. And, if you're planning on asking for a raise or promotion, this will certainly ease the conversation. You don't want to hesitate or stumble around grasping at straws when asked about why you deserve it.
4. Prepare for hard truths. Even top performers have room for improvement. No matter how well you're doing, you have to prepare yourself mentally for a few hard truths. After all, you can't grow as a professional if you don't know where you're currently falling short.
What are your weaknesses? What mistakes or negative things could come out during this discussion and how will you address them?
Remember that getting overly emotional will only make you look ill prepared and unprofessional. If and when you're faced with a critical evaluation of your performance, listen and do your best to absorb what's being offered. Take notes and ask questions to gain clarity.
If it comes as a total shock, ask for some time to digest the information and come back with some ideas for fixing the problem. If it's expected, be ready to provide those ideas on the spot. Don't argue, make excuses or place blame. If an explanation is needed, keep it short and take responsibility for your own actions.
Lastly, thank the person for the feedback and assure him or her that you're committed to improving. This leaves a very positive impression and helps establish you as someone who is willing and able to grow, even when it's uncomfortable.
5. Follow up. Most performance reviews end with a list of action items—improvements that need to be made, strengths that need to be built on, etc. Even if it's a glowing conversation full of praise, you'll probably have one or two items that require some kind of follow up. Don't drop the ball. Treat it as your responsibility; maybe even ask for a specific time frame in which a follow up meeting can take place. This is especially true for those who have specific challenges that need to be addressed. Check in on a regular basis and report your progress. Don't try to fly under the radar. The cat's out of the bag, and now it's time to face the situation head on.
Chrissy Scivicque, the founder of EatYourCareer.com, believes work can be a nourishing life experience. As a career coach, corporate trainer, and public speaker, she helps professionals of all levels unlock their true potential and discover long-lasting career fulfillment.