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3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Your Next Performance Review

A woman looks at her laptop with her hand on her chin.

Performance reviews can be stressful, but if you're well prepared, they can be a little less daunting (or even enjoyable!). When you bring an assessment of your own work and objectives to the table, you can worry less and look forward to a more focused and rewarding conversation.

Rather than waiting until the last minute to reflect on your performance, consider conducting regular reviews of your work. Use the questions in this post as a guide to help you stay on top of your self-assessments and to ensure that you get the most out of your next official performance review.

Are you keeping up with your personal goals?

When you’re new to a role, you should be sure to set a variety of initial short-term objectives and chart the progress over your first 100 days on the job. Beyond those early months, it can be more challenging to set and keep up with your on-the-job aspirations.

If you need help creating personal benchmarks, consider the SMART technique for goal-setting, which helps you transform a broad goal into something more specific by offering guidelines on creating a concrete set of steps as well as a firm timeline.

Here’s an example of what SMART goal setting may look like:

General goal: Develop my leadership skills.

SMART goal: Enroll in a leadership or management training course and complete the course within six weeks.

Action plan:

  • Enroll in online leadership course by the next quarter.
  • Complete one lecture each week (for six weeks).
  • Do supplemental reading and exercises twice weekly for a total of two to three hours of work.
  • By the end the of course, I will have created my own personal leadership plan.

After you’ve set your SMART goals, keep them accessible in your career journal, planner, or other project management tool in order to regularly track progress; it’s equally important to reflect on and redefine your goals along the way, especially if things aren’t working.

When you sit down to review your goal-specific actions and objectives, note where you’ve been successful and where you haven’t. If you’ve missed some deadlines or have failed to gain traction on a goal, dig further by asking yourself:

  • What is not going well and why?
  • What is most difficult about staying on track with a particular goal?
  • How can I remove or mitigate those obstacles?
  • Can I break down a goal into even smaller parts for more success?

Even if your goal is less time sensitive and more behavioral, such as watching your body language or improving your professional communication skills, ensure you’re not setting goals that seem unsustainable. If you feel like the goal or timeline is not realistic, take note and adjust as necessary.

How are your working relationships?

Along with taking stock of how well you’re maintaining your career goals, it’s valuable to consider how your workplace relationships are faring as well. Consider the following:

  • Is there open and clear communication with your team—including constructive criticism and feedback?
  • Do you feel compatible with your colleagues in terms of personality and work styles?
  • Are you comfortable with the way conflict resolution is handled?
  • When do you feel most supported in your role?
  • In what ways do you feel positively challenged by your coworkers, supervisor, or job demands?

Writing down your struggles may allow you to better formulate what you need to improve your situation—the kind of support you’d like to receive and how you’d like to broach the subject with your supervisor.

What do you want next and how will you get it?

If you are hitting your goals out of the park, you should feel proud. But it’s important to keep the momentum going by asking yourself what aspirations you have on deck and how you can map a route toward realizing them.

During your next self-assessment, don’t forget to reflect on your broader professional desires. Consider what and why you envision yourself taking a particular next step. Even if you’re unsure about the specifics, regularly checking in and working to articulate what you want can help you lay a strong foundation for clearer and more concise path to your professional goals.

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About the Author | Yoona Wagener is a freelance writer and WordPress developer who believes in the value of nonlinear career paths. She has experience in academic publishing, teaching English abroad, serving up customer support to software end users, writing online help documentation, and mission-driven nonprofit marketing and communications.

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