Throughout school, essays and presentations are judged based on explicit rubrics, exams are generally True/False or multiple choice, and grades are determined by adding up the amount of points one has earned in a fairly objective way. How hard one has worked, how helpful he/she has been, and how much one ACTUALLY CONTRIBUTED to that group project are usually not taken into account. As the girl who often ended up having to single-handedly write twenty-five-paged-supposed-to-be-group-essays, I would have GREATLY appreciated a kind of formal process to acknowledge individual contributions. But I digress.
So, with 21 years of my life being evaluated by the first five letters of the alphabet (A, B, C, D and F; why no E?), the idea of a performance evaluation can seem somewhat foreign. It evokes an image of being grilled by the boss under a big, blinding interrogation light. Logically, I knew this *probably* wasn’t true. So, like any millennial, I turned to Google to learn more about this process. Overall, I gathered that performance evaluations were a lot different than grades in school; they encourage discussion about one’s growth, goals, and individual accomplishments.
Since you can’t always trust the internet, I felt like maybe I should go to an actual human who has gone through the process. I decided to ask super-knowledgeable-yet-still-approachable-HR-staff-member-Christina Urciuoli for advice.
What is a Performance Evaluation?
First and foremost, I wanted to know what she saw as the purpose of a performance review. She said they provide opportunity for both employees and their managers to check in with how things have been going and to set goals for the future. Not so scary, right?
But before you can jump into this one-on-one sesh, you and your manager must each fill out a form evaluating your progress and planning future objectives. When it comes to Maser Consulting’s self-evaluation, it’s about assessing how your work aligns with the firm’s core values and how you handle soft skills like time management, teamwork, communication, etc. So, grab your pom poms because it’s time to become your biggest cheerleader.
“In the self-evaluation, focus on your achievements and the outcomes of projects you’ve worked on,” says Christina. So, when the review asks how I handle myself in leadership roles, I can say something like, “I am an effective leader because I successfully lead and executed the development of several blogs, resulting an increase in web traffic by XX%”. This shows how I embody this skill and the value of my work.
Next are your firm’s core values! Christina said it’s a good idea to give reasons why you possess these skills. For instance, Maser Consulting highly values responsiveness. You could say, “I am responsive because I ensure I promptly respond to all emails, even on weekends.” This illustrates how you go above and beyond and demonstrate behavior that may not apply to everyone.
I could super easily imagine myself saying exactly the wrong thing, so I asked her if there was anything one should avoid saying or doing. She said people are usually not self-critical during this process. Still, she did say that you definitely need to be honest and realistic. If there has been something you should be improving on, you should provide a solution and discuss how you plan to grow. So I shouldn’t mention that time I almost broke the printer… Key word almost!
Setting Goals in Your Performance Review
Once you’ve proven to be the embodiment of all that is good and professional, it’s time to tackle goals. First things first, your objectives should be measurable.
“Saying you want to be the best engineer in the world is an admirable goal. But, it’s not one that can be measured. You need to be able to track your progress throughout the year. So, choose goals that allow you to do so,” she said. Christina also says goals can be short- or long-term objectives, though the long-term goals should include checkpoints. For example, getting your PE takes a long time and would be considered a long-term goal. Your short-term goals could include the steps you are taking in order to earn it.
The Scary Part
When you’ve finished your self-evaluation, it’s then sent to your manager for review. Dun dun duuuuun! And prior to your face-to-face talk, you’ll receive one with their comments. Egads! It’s kind of like a corporate version of the “Do you like me? Circle yes or no” note.
Once you have everyone’s feedback, it’s time to meet and discuss your performance. “You should use this opportunity to discuss what you want out of your career, how you feel about the projects you’ve been working on and your workload, too,” says Christina. With your manager’s undivided attention, the performance evaluation is a great time to bring up any ambitions or concerns you may have.
Which brings us to that sweat-inducing topic: pay. Does anyone really know how or when to ask for a raise? Personally, the idea makes me more nervous than a first date, a job interview, and public speaking all combined. Luckily, Christina let me know that since you will already be in a context where you’re discussing your accomplishments, the performance evaluation is a good time to bring up any money matters, too. Whew, that’s good to know.
After talking with Christina, I feel like I understand the process a lot better. Be honest, set measurable goals, and advocate for yourself. Tell us how you approach performance evaluations, and I’ll see you next time I ask, “Am I Doing This Right?”