No one ever wrote a song about performance review time, calling it the “most wonderful tiiiiime of the year.” Nobody loves it, except maybe the most devoted members of Human Resources. It’s extra work for you, your boss, and your company. However, it’s worth it—it not only lets you know how you’re doing, but it also might net you a bonus or raise.
The time to start thinking about that raise is not 10 minutes before your self-evaluation is due. Planning ahead can bring great rewards.
1. Set goals early. REALLY early.
If possible, you can even set these goals before you have the job. If you spend a lot of time discussing the skill-building and growth you expect to see in your first year in the job, it helps your new employer set a baseline for your performance. Of course, realism is the key here. If you say you’re going to increase revenue by X% and you don’t meet that, you’ve just set yourself up for failure. Instead, set yourself up for success… and future profit.
2. Know your goalposts throughout the year.
If your boss expects you’ll hit certain milestones or complete particular projects, take extra care with those—they’ll be the concrete proof of your raise-worthy year. Make sure you keep a paper trail for big projects to help remind you later what you accomplished. If you get glowing reviews from a colleague or a client, save them! You can casually bust those out during a year-end discussion, and use them to how just how valuable you are to the team.
If you’re collecting data and keeping track of things all year, you won’t have to make a rushed pitch at the end of the year and risk forgetting accomplishments or projects that would make an excellent case for a raise.
3. Don’t limit yourself to just your responsibilities
If your company has committees, join one. If there are employee social events, volunteer to help set up or clean up. If you see a way to provide excellent service, but it would be a minor inconvenience to you, try to do it anyway. Things like these show that you’re willing to get your hands dirty in support of the company. You’re a team player who does what needs to be done, and doesn’t just wait around to be told what to do. If you want to look valuable, be valuable. You’d be surprised at how “small” things add up by the end of the year.
4. Don’t lie or bluff about your accomplishments.
Your boss will know if you are over-inflating numbers or making it look like you have a skill you don’t quite have. Be positive about your accomplishments and your skills, and talk them up as much as possible—just don’t feel the need to embellish. You don’t want anyone to question your integrity.
5. Treat your review like a re-interview.
Instead of letting your boss (or whoever is reviewing you) run through a monologue of your year while you sit quietly and sign the forms at the end, try to make sure it’s a dialogue. If she mentions a particular project, make sure the background and context are clear and that the takeaway—your success—is clear.
6. Turn your mistakes into accomplishments.
If you didn’t have a perfect year (and who does?) it doesn’t mean you’ll be disqualified from a raise or that you don’t deserve one. Again, this is a chance to play up your strengths. If something didn’t go well and it comes up in your review, make sure you put some spin on it. Talk about what you learned from the process and how you’ve grown/what you’ve done to fix the issue after the fact.
7. Don’t plead poverty.
A discussion about a raise is a discussion about your work performance. That’s it. You may very well need the money, but your employer is not obligated to give raises out of pity or because you’re a nice person. Make sure the focus stays on the reasons Professional You deserves more compensation. Once you make it personal, you also give more leverage to your employer. If they know you really, really need more money for Fluffington McWhiskers’ plastic surgery, they can try to lowball you because they know you’ll take less than you might be able to negotiate for yourself as part of a neutral, job-data-only presentation.
If you start preparing well before you’re scheduled to meet for a review—or if you’ve picked a time during the rest of the year to make your case for a raise—you’re in a great position. If you’ve built a careful and clear case about why you deserve more, you have also created some built-in confidence. All you need to do is cross the finish line, hopefully a little richer than you were before.