It’s that time of the year! The sometimes-dreaded, sometimes-awaited self-appraisal forms, and a fresh new chance to get ahead within your team or organization are around the corner. It’s the season of opportunities if you are willing to make the most of it.
While the outcome of the appraisal season ideally depends on all that you did through the year, it is also a little like a new business pitch. Your potential client knows the work your organization does, but if you mess up that pitch deck and meeting, you will lose the business. Similarly, if your self-appraisal form and discussion don’t give your manager enough meat to support your career progression, there is slim chance that you will like the outcome, no matter how much effort you put in through the year. At best, a sound, thought-through, and objective self-appraisal form decreases any chance of subjectivity or uncertainty. It could very well be one of the most important documents you fill in through the year, so you might as well do a brilliant job of it.
So what do you do to make a great case for all the effort you have put in through the year and the value you have brought to the team and the organisation? Here are some starting points to ensure that your appraisal form truly reflects and showcases everything you have done through the year.
The first part of any self-appraisal is to check off the essentials. So start by noting your achievements through the year with respect to the annual goals you set with your manager in the previous cycle. If goal setting is not a norm in your organization, take note of all that you were asked to do – by way of your job description or the instructions from your manager – and how you met those requirements.
Chances are that if you made the most of every opportunity that came your way through the year, you’d have done more than what your annual goals required of you. This additional contribution is what goes into the making of a promotion or a celebration-worthy salary hike. So go over your work records, appreciation emails, awards, and any unnoticed but important contributions you made during the course of the year. Back it up with data if you had specific targets to meet. Appreciation notes from clients or customers if you are directly dealing with them are also good additions to have. Note that this should not be a laundry list of bullet points, but bucketed into a few key themes of your job function so it is easier to understand and comprehend.
If you are gunning for a promotion, you need to showcase that you are ready for the job. So in addition to your achievements, go over the job description of the next level and highlight how you are already contributing towards those KPIs. For example, as a mid-level resource on the team, if you are already doing some amount of people management, training, or coaching for your peers or junior members on the team, highlight it. During the discussion, do let your HR know that you feel you are ready for the next jump.
No matter how tempting it might be in order to safeguard that promotion or glowing appraisal rating, don’t exaggerate your achievements. Stay on course and as objective as possible. Showcase your quantifiable, measurable, and most importantly, impactful results. Often people go overboard when presenting the work they have done, or tend to undermine their achievements. Avoid the extremes – take credit for what you have done and achieved over the year.
There is no way you been perfect through the entire year. You have probably made a couple of mistakes; some things may have fallen through the cracks. You are only a human at work. For your self-appraisal form to come across as objective and thought-through, make sure you point out your development areas proactively. But this needs to be done carefully and with a positive reaffirmation. Instead of saying “I failed at…”, say “This is what I need to continue working on” or “I learnt…” or “This is how I plan to manage this moving forward”. The bottom line here is that your mistakes should not come across as a convenient tool for your manager to give you a low rating.
Nobody likes the employee who is an insufferable know-it-all and unfortunately, likability does become important in appraisal settings – at least as important as your contributions, if not more. Recognize that your manager is a human at work, and promoting someone he/she doesn’t like is going to be hard. So even as you astutely showcase your contributions, be sure to outline your development areas. This is a sign of a mature, self-aware professional who not only knows his/her own strengths and weaknesses but is also committed to continuous learning.
You can do everything right, be visible, work hard, and write a sound appraisal form. But the best way to get that promotion or salary hike is to ask for it – unapologetically. In an ideal world, line managers would reward hard work without employees having to ask for it. Unfortunately, workplaces are far from ideal, and the next best thing is to not leave our well-deserved rewards to chance. Even if you don’t get them immediately, your line manager and HR will know it is on your mind and will plan for it.
Ultimately, your appraisal form needs to showcase that you are willing to take charge not only of your deliverables but also your career progression. It is a sign of an employee who is engaged in his/her career. Recognize that it is your manager’s job to be personally invested in your success, but if you can do something to make this job easier for him/her, do it. Finally, never hesitate to ask – that’s the key to getting what you want the most, whether it’s a salary hike or a promotion.