Ace Your Performance Review


Pay raises and promotions don’t just magically happen.

Showing up on time, working hard, and producing quality results doesn’t necessarily mean that management will note your efforts and advocate for a raise or promotion on your behalf.

It’s your job to advocate for yourself. You own your career.

It takes time to get to the next level. If you want a raise or a promotion, build the foundation for your justification now.

You can get the raise. You can get the promotion. The key to building the justification for your advancement is to make it easy for the decision makers to say “yes” to making an investment in you.

Track and Quantify Your Efforts

Part of making it easy for your leaders to say “yes” to your promotion or pay raise is writing the justification for them. Think about it: are you more likely to get promoted if you write the justification or if you wait for your supervisor to do it for you? Do the work for your supervisor. When you track and quantify your efforts, you provide the performance data your supervisor needs to justify the company spending more money on you.

Set a monthly reminder to take 30-60 minutes to reflect on your performance over the previous month. Do this 12 times per year. This will not only help you during the performance review but it also serves as the data you need in your resume. Two birds, one stone. When reflecting on your performance, capture the “what” and the “how”.

The “What” = the data associated with what you accomplished; the results you produced.

Examples of the “what” include:

  • Operations efficiency gains
  • Customers acquired
  • Sales figures
  • Cost reductions
  • Service, product, or system improvements

The “How” = how you accomplished what you did; the approach you used to achieve results.

Here’s a hint: being a one-person powerhouse only benefits your career for so long. At some point, you will need to demonstrate competencies tied to the development and inclusion of others. The further you go in your career, the more important it is to bring others into projects and initiatives. As your career progresses, helping the business scale and developing others around you becomes increasingly important. This is the essence of the “how”.

Examples of the “how” include:

  • Cross-team or cross-organization partnerships
  • Stretch opportunities (and coaching) provided to junior team members
  • Training and info sessions conducted
  • Regularly mentoring others

Be Specific, Not Vague or General

“Successfully leveraged referrals to close deals” may mean something to you, but those higher up in the organization have to justify the cost of your raise or promotion. To do this, they need to fully understand your performance contributions. It is your job to provide the details that, when read by an outsider, fully explain why you are deserving of a raise or promotion.

“Closed $75k in XYZ product sales by using customer acquisition data to influence the sales promotion manager to increase sales referral incentives.”

The difference between the first quote and second are drastic. Any outsider can look at the second quote and see exactly what was accomplished. This is the goal – to allow anyone in the organization to understand exactly what it is you have done and why you’re deserving of a raise or promotion. Make it crystal clear.

Own Up to Mistakes

At some point or another, we will all fall short of performance goals. This is natural and to be expected when we stretch and grow – this is what professional development looks like at times. The key to surpassing our shortcomings is owning our mistakes.

At Amazon, we call this being “vocally self-critical”. That is to say, we understand our mistakes, we note where and how we failed, we implement solutions to prevent the failure(s) from occurring in the future, and we also teach others what we have learned from our shortcomings.

When we make excuses for our failures or shy away from the mistakes we’ve made, we do a disservice to ourselves and the organizations we work for. When we own our shortcomings, learn from them, and teach others, we strengthen not only ourselves but the organization as a whole.

When preparing for your performance review, be sure to note your mistakes, how you learned from them, the actions you took to prevent them from occurring again, and how you helped others learn from your errors.

Walk Out With A Plan

Regardless of the outcome of your performance review, partner with your supervisor and identify your strengths and areas of opportunity for improvement. Leave the meeting with a clear understanding of the successes you can build on and the areas you can focus on improving over the course of the next year. After the meeting, draft a plan with specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART) goals. Bring your plan and SMART goals to your next one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.

By initiating this step, you show your supervisor that you take career ownership and professional development seriously. In time, you’ll be rewarded with assignments that allow you to stretch and grow and it’s your ability to demonstrate success on stretch and growth opportunities that will result in promotions and pay raises.