Nobody wants to be surprised at review time, but most people also sit back and hope that their manager is going to recognize their hard work. I suggest taking a more active role in the process, so you can communicate what you want and set yourself up for success.
As a manager, I always tried my hardest to give my employees feedback along the way so that there were no surprises when it came time for the review. What I found, however, is that even with my best intentions and consistent feedback, there were still surprises and disappointments about things like raises and title changes.
I would hear responses like, “Oh, I was hoping for a title change” or “I really thought I was going to get a bigger raise this year.” The frustrating thing about this for both of us is that by the time you’re actually in your review, it’s too late to do anything about review grades, compensation changes, or title changes. So whether your next review is fast-approaching or a few months away, here are some things to do NOW to avoid disappointment later on.
1) Have a direct conversation with your manager about any goals you have for the next review period. Want a raise? Tell them what range you have in mind, and ask what they would need to see from you to get there. Want a title change? Same idea—ask them where they see the gaps and what projects you could take on to demonstrate your level of skill. Want to work in other areas? Communicate that, especially if you can suggest some opportunities where you think you could add value. It might feel awkward, but it’s very worth it to bring these things up sooner rather than later. Your manager can direct your work, help you measure progress along the way, and make sure you’re focusing your efforts in the right places.
2) Ensure you check in along the way. One great conversation is a start, but you really need to make sure you check in on progress—once a month is a good cadence that won’t take up too much time for either you or your manager. Be clear on how you will measure success, and come prepared to your check-ins with relevant examples.
3) Along those lines, keep track of what you’ve accomplished! You are going to remember what you’ve done far better than anyone else, so don’t rely on your manager’s memory to keep track of everything. Write it down in a word document, a spreadsheet, or an app like Evernote. The format isn’t important, but what is key is that you remember specific examples that align with what you identified you’d work on. If you need to get other people to back you up and weigh in on what they’ve seen from you, it’s far easier to ask them in the moment than to wait until they are also swamped during review period.
Nobody wants to be surprised and disappointed come review time, but too often we put the entire burden of this process on our managers. Even with the best intentions, they aren’t mind readers. A little communication (and documentation) can go a very long way to helping you achieve your goals.