The closest thing most grad students and postdocs have to a performance review is the committee meeting. But most organizations hold yearly reviews. Since we are coming to the end of the fiscal year, I’m getting ready to meet with my direct reports to review their accomplishments over the past year and to discuss goals for the year ahead.
For those of you in a first job, or for those of you whose PI runs the lab like a business, check out these tips for a great performance review:
1. Be realistic. Your yearly performance review is not the time to look at your history with rose-colored glasses (or with an overly pessimistic outlook, either). There are likely to be internal reasons why you performed well or poorly, as well as external reasons. Identify and quantify them ahead of time.
2. Develop a plan to address your weaknesses. Everyone has weaknesses. If you walk into your performance review knowing what your weaknesses are, and, even better, if you have a real-life plan for how to address those weaknesses over the coming year, you will impress your supervisor much more than if you focus only on your strengths.
3. Don’t ask for a raise or increase in benefit without justification. In this economy, automatic increases are not the norm. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a raise if you’ve done a good job. You just have to be able to be prepared to explain your accomplishments to your boss.
4. Align your strengths and accomplishments with company goals. You will likely be asked to identify your personal strengths as well as your accomplishments over the past year. In our company, staff are expected to identify which of their accomplishments align best with the company’s pillars: innovation, initiative, intelligence, and impact. You may not have “pillars” but there is a least a mission that you can align with. Framing your accomplishments in this way shows how valuable you are to the company.
5. This is an opportunity to focus on you. How often do you get an hour to focus just on you? Yearly reviews are a great opportunity to get feedback on your performance. During this hour, you should strive to have an open, candid discussion with your boss. Just remember that your boss is only human (just like you) and moreover that she doesn’t know you as well as you know yourself. She may forget about some of your accomplishments, or she might have a different perspective that could prove extremely valuable. Use this experience as an opportunity for professional and personal growth.
Finally, remember that pretty much everyone who has a pulse gets nervous for their performance reviews. You can ease some anxiety by realizing that it is normal to be nervous. Once you spend a little bit of time in preparation, and remember that your boss is human, too, you should be able to take your apprehension down a notch.