Making your next performance review a bit less painful...
We're starting into that annual ritual at work known as the "performance review." All management is sync'd up for their reviews on one date, and the rank-and-file follow about 4 months after that. One of the key elements in many performance reviews is the "self-review." That's where you have to come up with a list of things you've done that you want your boss to document and consider.
And if you're like most workers, you *hate* that task! Not only is it nearly impossible to remember everything you've done over the last year (much less last week!), but most people think the self-review ends up being a case of "blowing your own horn"... an exercise in self-promotion that feels uncomfortable. And in both cases, you're right. But you need to take steps to rectify the first issue and get over the second one.
Your "what did I do" list... My wife got me into a habit about 15 years ago, and it's paid off tremendously ever since. Using whatever editing tool you like, start keeping a daily log of what you did. I'm not talking an entire journal page of minutia or an hour-by-hour description. Just jot down the main bullet points of what happened. For me, it might be something like:
- April 14, 2007
- Project X - started coding the design of the app, got the initial UI done, and gave it to the user to look at.
- Trouble Ticket Y - helped Jermaine figure out his login problem on application Z
- Staff meeting
- Project Q - started with the design specs and submitted for review
I can fill that in at the end of the workday, or just keep a running list going throughout the day. The key is consistency... you need to DO IT! Then at the time of your annual review, you have 30 to 40 pages of day-by-day activities that you can use to list all the projects, help desk cases, and events you did. When I wrote mine this year, I was able to produce a three page self-review in less than an hour that listed all the applications I built, the ones I maintained, any special training I took, and all other relevant details. It was complete, detailed, and it took no effort on my part to come up with the documentation. I've gotten to the point where I have a standard word processing template I use to track this for the week, and then I email it to my boss on Friday. I told him that I really don't care if he looks at it or not, but it keeps me honest and accountable. He actually *does* read it most of the time, and it means he's usually up-to-date on what I'm doing.
And for "self-promotion" worries... Yes, it might feel uncomfortable. But ultimately it's your career and paycheck we're talking about. I used to have the same feelings until I worked for Enron. There, the semi-annual review process was called "rank and yank". You were stack-ranked against all your peers with the same title, and the bottom x% were strongly encouraged to improve or move out. The percentages for the categories were hard and fast. You would only have, say... 10% of the people allowed to get an exceptional rating. If one person was moved up to that ranking and it went over 10%, then one person had to be moved down. Very cut-throat. Your manager had to present his staff to the review committee and make the case for their ranking. The more ammo they had, the better chance you stood of ending up in a higher category. Our manager understood the value of marketing your work, and he made sure we were selling ourselves big-time. We would come up with "placemats", or full-color portfolios of our work and activities. He'd hand these out to the review team and proceed to explain how come we belonged in the upper echelon of the rating system. It may sound excessive or phony, but the bottom line is that it worked. His staff consistently rated at the top end of the scale, which translated into significant annual bonuses. And if you were ever a part of Enron's culture with rank and yank, you would understand just how important that was. I came away from that experience with an understanding of how important it is to "sell" your work and value. It may be that everyone depends on you, but when it comes review time, you need to have facts and numbers for your boss. And if he already knows your value, he may need those to sell your raise and promotion to his boss. That time you take to market your value and worth could end up adding thousands of dollars to your paycheck...
So... make a commitment to yourself to start writing down a short list of your daily activities. Use Notepad, OpenOffice Writer, Google Docs, whatever... Just start doing it now. If you forget a day, then start back up the following one. It will take awhile to get into the habit, but I can promise you that the time will be well-spent and well-compensated when your next review rolls around.