Prepping for Your First Performance Review? Here’s How to Stand Out.

I can clearly remember my first day at my first post-college job. I was working for a nonprofit and excited to make an impact in my community while investing in my career. However, all my enthusiasm did not necessarily translate into an understanding of how to convey my contributions to my new manager.

As I’m sure you can imagine, when you’re new in your career or the new person at a company, it can be confusing to determine how to best meet your boss’ expectations and stand out in your department. Sure, you’re completing your tasks on time and contributing to projects, but how can you quantify your work and enthusiasm in a performance review?

If this experience is familiar to you, start preparing for your first performance review today by taking action on the following initiatives:

Measure your productivity
A powerful way to connect your daily efforts with your overall impact is by measuring your productivity. By becoming aware of how you spend your time, you can better communicate which responsibilities in your job description are the most time consuming and identify which ones need more of your attention. Plus, by measuring your productivity, you will recognize any threats to your productivity (specific websites that suck you in or tasks that monopolize your time) and determine ways to rectify these problems. If you usually use the computer to complete your work assignments, a good resource for tracking your time is RescueTime. A tool that allows you to easily understand how you spend your time, RescueTime can be installed on your computer and will track what software or websites are actively being used. Plus, RescueTime can be customized to your experience and gives you weekly updates on your overall productivity.

Recognize where you stand against other coworkers or people in your industry in similar positions
Remember that your job does not exist in a vacuum. In any given industry, there may be hundreds of marketing managers, business analysts, or sales managers who have job responsibilities similar to your own. Stay informed of the expectations of your position across your industry by comparing salaries, researching job expectations, and determining education requirements. If you’re unsure of how to start, payscale.com can help you determine salary and research job duties. If you need to get more granular because you’re at a small company or in a niche industry, making a connection with someone in a similar role at a competing company could help you get the information you need. Just remember: it never hurts to ask if you’re strategic about how you make the request.

Research how your organization is doing
Go to work, get your job done, go home, repeat. When you’re used to this unchanging schedule, it’s easy to forget what’s happening outside of the work you do within your department. But understanding your role and the part you play in your company’s bigger picture is important for conveying your value in a performance review. Many people make the mistake of disregarding their company’s financial health and success in the market. Yet when you’re curious about your company’s bottom line, you convey to your boss that your job is more than simply a way to earn a paycheck. You can do a deep dive into your company’s background and culture by reviewing annual reports, prior year production reports or payroll reports. These materials will help you gain a better understanding of how your organization is doing and how you play a part in its success.

Identify ways that technology can increase your team’s efficiency
As a young professional, you may be considered one of the most technologically literate individuals in your department. Take this opportunity to align your knowledge of technology with the needs of your department. Review the ways your team assigns projects or addresses common issues and think critically about how technology could streamline these tasks. Before you start suggesting changes, ask coworkers open-ended questions about why certain processes are in place and how they’ve been done in the past. Once you fill these gaps in your knowledge about procedures, your next step is to determine if there is a better way to do them by incorporating technology. By taking this initiative, you’ll demonstrate to your boss that you hope to make a positive impact on your department and coworkers by contributing beyond the work you’re assigned.

No matter how much you prepare, your first performance review will bring some level of anxiety and uncertainty. Instead of planning for only the things you know, anticipate your boss’ questions and concerns by adhering to the above list. At the very least, when you take the time to tackle these initiatives, you will feel more confident about where you stand and your ability to communicate your worth.

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Emily Knippa

Emily Knippa is a St. Louis-based marketer and writer who focuses on content marketing, career development, and personal finance. She enjoys meeting people pursuing inspiring career paths. She’d love to meet you at the next United Way event. Say hello to Emily on Twitter at @emilyknippa.