Performance reviews can be a stressful time – even for the most stellar of employees. It can be daunting to hear feedback on our performance, let alone muster up the courage to ask for a pay rise or promotion.

Yet, performance reviews can be a great opportunity to learn, develop and grow as professionals. They can be an opportunity for working mothers to celebrate their accomplishments, reflect on lessons learned or missed opportunities, and begin to plan where they can go next.  

Of course, not every performance evaluation meets its full potential. And, not every manager is best equipped to lead really engaging conversations. But don’t let that be a reason to lose out on an opportunity to talk about your career with the very person who can help you get to where you want go next.

So, what can you do?

Reflect on your performance

Before heading into your meeting, take some time to think through your accomplishments. If you completed a self-appraisal form as part of your company’s process, review it. If haven’t taken this step, put some time aside to think through your accomplishments from the past year and compare them with the goals you had previously set.

If you’ve received any feedback from colleagues or clients throughout the year, be sure to include them in your self-assessment. Tip: If your kudos are in email form, be sure to print them out and bring copies with you to your meeting.

You’ll also want to consider if there were any times you missed the mark during the year. As you do, consider what you’ve learned from the experience and how you’ll apply it going forward.

If you’re pregnant and planning your maternity leave, or you’ve recently returned from parental leave, this article will help you nail this year’s performance review.

Ask questions

Asking questions is a sure-fire way to gather information. Questions, when used strategically, can do so very much more. They can indicate your level of knowledge and awareness about a topic. They can also demonstrate leadership qualities – the very ones that may be needed for a promotion. And, they can reaffirm your commitment to your team, your company and your career.

So, before you leave your boss’ office, be sure to ask a few pointed questions that can help position you for future success.

How can I improve?

Even if you’ve received top marks for the year, there is always something you can improve upon and something new to learn. Take this time with your manager to learn what you need to do next to move your career forward. Here are some general questions you can use. However, if you’re chasing a specific goal, think through what exactly you need to know to get there.

  1. What do you see are some areas where I need to further develop?
  2. What specific skills or capabilities would make me more effective in my role?
  3. Are there any training opportunities you think I should consider?

What’s my next step?

As important as it is to consider your career goals, you’ll also want to seek input and guidance from your manager. They know you, your capabilities and your work style, so they likely have some good insights to share. So, take some time to hear their ideas.

  1. By next year this time, what would you like me to have accomplished?
  2. Where do you see my career taking me in 2 or 5 years?
  3. Are there any connections at this company you think I should make to grow my network?

Can you support me?

We can all use a little help from our friends, or in this case our manager, especially when it comes to achieving our goals. If you are looking for a pay rise, a promotion or access to specific opportunities, now is the time to talk about them with your manager. Be direct about what it is you want, and come prepared to negotiate. You’ll also want to clearly ask your manager for their support and guidance. Then, find out what they’ll need to make sure they have everything in place to provide you with the support you need.   

  1. What do you need from me to ensure I’m well-positioned for this promotion?
  2. What is the timeline for raises and bonuses? Can I do anything to help you pitch my pay rise/bonus for this year?
  3. When should we meet again to talk about a plan to position me for this project?

What are our priorities?

We all want our work to have meaning and serve a purpose. If that’s you, take this time with your manager to understand the goals and priorities for your team and your company. You can then use these to guide the goals you set for yourself and the work you do in the coming year.

  1. What do you think will be our team’s top priority heading into next year?
  2. Where do you think I can most contribute to our team’s/company’s goals this coming year?
  3. How do you think our business will change in the coming year?

How can I contribute to our team?

You know that saying, you’ll have to crawl before you can walk? The same is true about leadership. Before you can be a successful leader, you’ll want to be an effective team player. So, take some time in your review to discuss how you can bring more value to your team in terms of work as well as beyond it.

  1. How can I be a more valuable team player to you and our team?
  2. What would you like to see our team accomplish in the next year?
  3. Is there anyone on the team that may require extra support/mentoring/encouragement?

These questions will help you make the most of your performance appraisal and provide you the direction you need to keep moving your career forward. With that said, you may not need or want to ask each question listed above. Be strategic and take time to consider your goals for your discussion.

There is one final question you should ask before you leave your meeting and it’s this: when can we meet again to talk about my progress? By staying in touch, you keep your goals at the top of your boss’ mind. And, it’ll keep you motivated to stay the course (or make adjustments as needed).  

What other questions would you add to this list? Share them in the comments below.

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