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How to prepare for a performance review

By Dave Willmer
November 10, 2009 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - Performance reviews can be stressful, but they're also an opportunity to re-examine your current position, your relationship with your employer and your career goals. By asking yourself some key questions, you'll increase the chances that your performance review will be productive for both you and your employer. Here are five points to consider before your review.

1. What did I do this year?

Start by reviewing the year (or whatever time period has passed since your last review). Examining old e-mails and files may refresh your memory. Take a month-by-month look at your responsibilities and achievements, both expected and unexpected. Keep an eye out for any cases in which you went beyond the call of duty. For example, did you take on added responsibilities when staff size was reduced? Did you find ways to reduce the costs associated with a particular project or process? Even an attentive manager isn't likely to remember all of your contributions.

Dave Willmer
Dave Willmer

As you look back, also note any projects that didn't meet expectations, as well as any challenges you've experienced. What happened, and what was your role in the end result? Such preparation will ensure you are not blindsided if an issue is brought up during your review and will help lay the groundwork for a substantial discussion with your supervisor.

2. What are my career goals and priorities?

Chances are you came out of your last performance review with some new goals or areas for improvement. Take the time to find and review last year's appraisal. If there are objectives that fell by the wayside, consider whether they remain important, or if new ones are now more appropriate. During your review, don't hesitate to ask about your employer's current ability to assist you with these goals. Many worthy career advancement intentions were set aside in 2009 as organizations focused on staying afloat. Is there technical or business training you'd like to pursue? Most managers have a genuine interest in helping employees keep their careers moving forward, but supervisors need honest input.

3. Should I ask for a raise?

Even if you think a raise is richly deserved, take into account the financial condition of your employer before broaching the subject. Also consider alternate ways your employer can express appreciation for your contributions, such as flexible scheduling, work-at-home options or additional benefits.

If you do ask for a raise, be prepared to back up your request with specific evidence of ways you've saved the company time and money. To home in on a realistic amount, consider past raises, the state of the company and the salary levels of other people in your area who hold your position. Publications such as the Robert Half Technology 2010 Salary Guide can give you an objective range to share with your manager.

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