How to Prepare for an Annual Review

How did you prepare for your annual review last year? Did you stroll into the meeting unprepared? Or did you take an hour before the meeting to cram a few talking points into your memory? Instead of showing up to your annual review and waiting for your boss to share their feedback, why not come to the table prepared and confident – ready to show your worth.

How to Prepare for Your Annual Review

Identify Your Desired Outcome

Before you start pulling together your accomplishments, let’s take a pause and talk about what you’re hoping to get out of your review. These are a few of the things you might consider:

  • Salary increase
  • Bonus
  • More support (from team members, more staff support, more feedback from leadership, etc.)
  • Role transition
  • Training opportunities/professional development
  • Autonomy (are you being micromanaged or bottlenecked by leadership?)
  • New opportunities (management training, more client access, more leadership roles)

Understanding your objective for the review will help you prepare to negotiate for it. It can be easy to go through your review, listen to what your boss says, and then leave without ever asking for what you want. Think of your review as a persuasive presentation, you are selling your achievements to management in a way that will make it difficult for them to refuse your ask. Failing to make your ask, actually costs you money in the long run. Ben Cook, CEO of the job-negotiation platform, Riva shared the following in this CIO article on negotiating raises.

“Two thirds of American workers fail to negotiate their pay. That costs the average worker a million dollars over the course of their career. For a CIO or anyone on the path to the C-suite, that number is much higher. You might think you are leaving a couple thousand dollars on the table. But the money you leave there today costs you this year and next year and in the inflation-adjusted raise of the year after. Raises compound upon raises.”

Ben Cook Quote

This doesn’t end at a raise but can also be about protecting yourself from burnout in the coming year by asking for more support or looking out for future opportunities by getting more training. You are investing in your future self by making your ask.

Review the Previous Year

Keep in mind that an annual review shouldn’t just be the company or your boss reviewing you, but also you reviewing your place and performance in the company. Are you happy in your position? Think about your long-term career goals and think of your review as an opportunity to work with your manager to plan your trajectory for the new year.

If you’ve been at the company for a while, start by looking at your annual review from the previous year. How did it go? What was discussed and what were the outcomes? If you’re new to the company, you might have to go back to the job description or a 30-60-90-day review.

What were your goals for the previous year? Did you meet them? Make a list of everything you accomplished, include everything big and small. Make sure to quantify these details – if you worked on a big project, what were the results? Did you drive sales? Implement a new system? Consider the company’s bottom line – how did you help the company with your big wins? Make sure to include this in your recap.

Be prepared to present your accomplishments as part of your review. It’s okay to put together a one-sheet overview that you can bring and share with your boss. Having something tangible can help keep you on track and focused on your talking points. This article from Fellow has some great examples of how to frame your accomplishments.

Some companies ask employees to fill out a detailed self-evaluation form. This is something that I can help you review or even put together a practice review to go through it together. If you’re nervous about the review or are planning to request a salary increase/promotion we can practice it until you feel confident.

Annual Review

Face Your Flaws

You probably have a pretty good idea of the things you need to work on. If you have a good manager, none of that should come as a surprise to you. But you should be prepared to discuss any shortcomings at work and how you have or plan to address them. If you’re always late to work figure out why? Is it too tight of a fit to drop off the kids at school and make it to the office on time? Be upfront about it and see if you can have a later start time to accommodate your schedule.

If you’ve dropped the ball on a few projects, consider why. Do you not have enough support on your team? Is there something you can ask for that would help? The key here is to address any mistakes or challenges in the past year and share what you’ve learned and how you would behave differently in the future.

If you suspect that you might have a bad performance review, make sure to go in with a plan. Be upfront and address what didn’t get done and then have a plan for how you will complete these projects. Take time to digest any negative feedback and ask for a follow-up meeting to revisit it so you and your boss can start the new year on the same page.

Unfinished Business

Identify what goals you couldn’t achieve. Are they still priorities? If so, can they be accomplished in Q1? Why did they get missed? This may be a situation of degrees – maybe you were close to hitting your goal and you will quickly pass it by in the next month. While you may not want to bring up every little project you pushed to the back burner, make sure you are aware of them and able to speak about them if asked.

Unfinished business might also be those “nice to have” or aspirational projects that always get pushed to the back burner. Many times completing these projects is considered “going the extra mile.” These are things that can set you apart from the crowd. Identify something you could knock out in the early part of the year and start the year off strong. These are the things you can keep track of and identify when you angle for that promotion or raise.

Consider the Future

An annual review is a good opportunity to state your intentions. If you have your eye on a promotion in the next few years, make sure your manager knows that’s your next step. Clearly outline what steps you need to take to get to the next level. Get your manager’s input on your next steps and where there are opportunities for growth in the upcoming year.

Let your manager know that you are interested in professional development and mentorship opportunities that are in line with your next level of growth.

After your performance review, you should have a roadmap on what to do next. If you’re looking to reach a new level in the next year, consider joining my Crossroads Group Coaching program or booking a consultation with me.