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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, I’m not talking about the holidays, I’m talking about annual review time! I’m not gonna lie, employee reviews are one of my least favorite things about adulthood. When I first started working after law school, I was so lost when it came to my annual review. I didn’t know how to choose my goals or how to write my self-rating comments. Over the years, I realized that if you take the time during the year to really prepare for your annual review, it’s a lot less painful! Since we are heading into a new year, I thought this would be the perfect time to share some tips with you guys.

Tip #1: Prepare for your review during the year! This is the biggest tip I can give you! I mentioned it earlier in this post because it is so true. If you wait until a month before your ratings, comments or meetings are scheduled, you will undoubtedly miss important milestones you achieved or projects you worked on during the year and you will rush through the process which doesn’t benefit you, your manager or your company. It also helps you measure yourself against your goals in real time. At most companies I worked for, they wanted you to create two or more goals for yourself during the year. It’s easier to forget those after you submit them. If you prepare during the year, you can make sure you are on the right track!

Tip #2: Be mindful of how you write your goals. One of my favorite goals I give myself is year is to identify an issue in my group or within the company as a whole and create a process to address it. I love it because companies love innovation (unless you work at one of those companies that hates change! lol) and strategic thinking. It also helps to challenge me each year to really learn my job and think outside of the box instead of becoming complacent in my position. The first time I ever gave myself that goal, I wrote it in a way that required me to not only create a process but to have the process adopted by the company. My manager informed me that processes can sometimes take years to get implemented. She told me that I should rewrite the goal. Instead of creating a process she said my goal should be to identify a problem and suggest a process to improve our jobs. She explained that you don’t want to have anything in your goals that are out of your control (ie how a company adopts a new process). This way, if I suggested a process and it took my company 3 years to get it on paper, I still met my goal.

Tip #3: Save praise! During my first job, my manager mentioned that she saved any emails she received praising my performance. She said it helped her justify my promotions at the company. After that, I started doing the same thing for myself. I created a folder in my outlook called “Kudos” and saved any emails giving me positive feedback. I also forwarded them to my manager so she had them handy when it was time to complete my review.

Tip #4: Ask colleagues for feedback in real time: If you are working on a project at work, once you complete it, ask your colleagues for feedback! Sometimes we work on assignments and never hear anything about it until review time. I also find that people are usually very vocal with praise if you do a great job, but some people tend not to give suggestions or criticism. I always reach out to my colleagues and ask them if I did something correctly, if there was a better way to tackle a task or write an email or if they have any suggestions for the next go round. It shows them you are thoughtful but it also helps you improve on the next assignment. Don’t wait for your review to get feedback that you could have received and utilized well before then!

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Tip #5: Identify shortcomings and how you addressed/plan to address them: No one is perfect. You are going to make mistakes. Not only should you save praise, but you should also keep track of any times you fell short and how you immediately went into action to fix the problem or, if it is a bigger issues or takes more time to correct, how you plan to take action to make the correction. Showing that you can identify a mistake and correct it before it becomes a bigger issue is one of the most important things you can do throughout your career.

All of these tips have really helped me approach my review period more thoughtfully and it actually makes me excited for my reviews each year. I hope these tips were helpful to you guys! Here’s to ending the year on a high note professionally!