By Barbara Hewitt
It is performance review time for University of Pennsylvania staff. There was a bit of a collective groan when our director announced the date in May when all reviews need to be completed. Between writing individual self-appraisals, meeting with supervisors to discuss them, and then formally writing up official performance reviews for each staff member, the process can be time and labor intensive. It is all too easy to think about all the other tasks you could be working on.
Let’s face it – it can also feel awkward and artificial to sit down formally to talk about “how the year went.” Hopefully your relationship with your supervisor is open enough that these sorts of conversations don’t need to be channeled into one hour-long conversation each year, but rather can take place over the course of 12 months on an as-needed basis. In many offices, however, this doesn’t happen. Most employees have a full-load on their plates (especially with the recent downsizing at many organizations), so it can be difficult to find a time when you and your supervisor are both available.
Even with the “downside” of performance reviews, however, I firmly believe they are a valuable and important tool. The self-appraisal process encourages employees to think about what has been accomplished throughout the year – what went well and what was less successful – and consider personal strengths and areas for improvement. In the day to day bustle of most jobs, it can be difficult to make the time to sit down and reflect about how things are going. Reviews also provide the incentive (and requirement!) of formulating goals for the coming year. Studies have shown that goals are much more likely to be achieved if they are written down. The appraisal process forces you to do this.
As students, many of you have probably not yet had the opportunity to participate in a formal review, but for those of you graduating in May and those of you entering a structured internship program over the summer, this is likely to change for you soon! Following are some suggestions to help you prepare for the process:
• Document Your Accomplishments. Throughout the course of the year (or summer, in the case of internships) document your achievements so that you can easily refer to them when it comes time for your review. It can be difficult to recall what you did in January when your review does not take place until December. The file can be a formal hard copy system or simply an e-mail folder where you store reminders about things you want to bring up during the review.
• Know the review format. Find out if there is a standard written evaluation that the organization uses. Try to obtain a copy of it so you will know how to prepare.
• Review yourself first. Think about how you’ve made a difference and contributed to the organization. If you can quantify your achievements, even better. Be able to articulate why the organization is better off because you are there. You should also be self-aware enough to be able to discuss where you need to develop and grow. Finally, you should be ready to discuss any new projects you would like to take on or new training that would help you to be even more successful at work.
• Focus on yourself. This is YOUR review. Don’t use it as an opportunity to comment on other employees’ performance or complain about your colleagues.
• Relax! Remember that the review is a conversation. View it as a valuable opportunity to receive feedback on your performance. It is a time when you will (hopefully!) have your supervisor’s undivided attention. Take advantage of this time to learn more about how you are perceived in the workplace and what steps you can take to perform at an even higher level. The review also provides a helpful opportunity to make sure that you and you are supervisor are on the same page. Are the things that you are placing a lot of emphasis on the same things that your supervisor values and wants you to focus on? Finally, try not to be defensive and to remain open to feedback. It can be difficult to have someone tell you what areas you need to improve on, but the feedback can be extremely valuable to help you excel within the organization and in your long-term career.
Keep in mind that the review process in most organizations is tied to salary increases. Taking the review seriously and thoroughly preparing for it will not only help you to better showcase your contributions to the organization, but hopefully result in more money in your paycheck.