Annual reviews can be a nerve-wracking time for any employee, but it is more so for I.T. professionals. More than anything else, it is a great time to negotiate for a salary increase. But how do you go about preparing for your annual review and making sure that you would be able to make your boss see that you are worth every penny that the company is paying you and more? And more than the money, how should you help set realizable goals or handle negative feedback?
Most employees get only one chance a year to prove that they have done their jobs well and are worthy of a salary increase or a promotion. Get a firm grip on your career and its direction by following these five tips to prepare for a great annual review.
Begin the process of preparing for an annual review by listing down all of your responsibilities and deliverables at work and honestly evaluate yourself in each of these.
This will give you an honest baseline of what to expect from your annual review. Anticipate any negative feedback that may come up in your review by looking through your old e-mails and memos during the past year. You are better prepared to deal with negative reviews if you know about these beforehand.
You could also check the previous year’s annual reviews and see how far you have gone from that. If there were things that you need to improve, tasks to accomplish, certifications and trainings to undergo, see which of these had been achieved within the past year.
Is it “mission accomplished” for most, if not all, of your identified goals from last year? Remember that a performance review should focus on accomplishments, not specific tasks. You do not go into an annual review meeting to say that you have been able to maintain network security every single day because that is your job. Instead, say that you were able to reduce the turnaround time for in-house software from 4 weeks to 2 weeks without sacrificing the quality. Or under your supervision, the help desk was able to improve the quality of service it provides to other departments and customers.
Always back up you achievements with the necessary proof. For instance if you want to prove that you have already mastered running an SQL Server, then show your certifications.
Annual reviews provide a great venue to discuss goals for the next year. List all the goals you want to achieve in the next year, such as mastering a new tech platform or new software, or getting certified for your skills. Specify how you think the company could help you accomplish these professional goals. What skills do you need?
Annual reviews also give you the opportunity to discuss your future with the company and your professional goals.
Be specific about your professional goals. You should be able to articulate it, like “In two years, I would like to be able to manage my own team for network security” or “In the next year, I would like more training on systems administration.”
If you get very positive feedback about your performance, acknowledge it and work out plans on how to get further in the next year. Enumerate your strengths and how these could contribute to the company’s goals and plans. This could pave the way for a promotion or growth opportunities.
As for salary increases, positive feedback could be used as a good opening for this kind of conversation. In smaller companies, you can broach the subject at the review itself because chances are, your bosses are the owners and decision makers who could grant that increase. For bigger corporations, you have to consider that your boss would need to take a look at the budget they have and get the approval of higher management, so it would be wise to start asking for a raise a month or two before your annual review.
There are times when employees get shocked over negative feedback from their bosses and the natural reaction would be to become defensive and hurt. The best way to handle negative feedback, however, is to thank the boss for it and get more into detail by asking for specific behaviors or instances regarding the feedback.
Ask if your manager would be willing to guide you to correct these problems and what specific behaviors are to be expected. This action will help tell your boss that you are addressing the said negative feedback. If you have determined the boss is wrong, then keep your sense of humor and remember that even supervisors are human, said executive coach John Hoover. This way you can turn a bad review around.
For example, your manager tells you that you tend to be dismissive in handling IT-related complaints from other departments. Try to pinpoint the exact behavior by asking your manager and work out a solution so that you do not hear the same feedback again. Ask your manager if he or she would be willing to work with you to improve on this, and perhaps coach you on how to deliver better customer service.
Never mince words when it comes to your annual review. This might be your one chance during the whole year to get what you want such as a higher salary, better training options, help with certifications, or a promotion.
Always tell your boss what you want and why you think you deserve it by showing that you have reached most of the goals you have from last year, that you have been doing your job well, and incorporating all the positive feedback you have just gotten.
Be explicit in explaining how your expectations were formed. Was it promised in the last review? Or did you meet the company’s criteria for a promotion or a salary increase?
Communicate what you expect and what you think is fair for you. If you think that the amount of work you do deserves a higher salary, then say so. Otherwise, management will think that you can go another year without a hike in your salary.
But that is easy enough if you get positive feedback on top of your own accomplishments. What if you came up short? Well, do not dwell on it. Always focus on what you have achieved and play it up. If management says that you are not qualified yet for a promotion or a salary increase, make sure that you get a timeline and guidance on what you have to do to get either one or both. Keep in mind that you might not have to wait until next year. Patrick Sweeney, president of HR Consulting firm Caliper, said that it is okay to check in every quarter with your progress.
After the review, congratulate yourself and always put everything you have discussed in writing. This will help you prepare for the next annual review. It also helps to put up your plan where you could see it, then periodically review your progress.