Career Progression

Performance appraisal prep

Six steps to help you prepare for your performance appraisal

6016 4016 Brenda Akinyi

The end of the year brings many seasonal workplace traditions, like holiday parties or Secret Santas. In addition to these fun events, there’s another annual occurrence that you can definitely expect in December – your end-of-year performance appraisal.

While the thought of sitting down with your manager to take stock of your individual contributions may sound stressful, with some preparation and the right attitude, your review could be a motivating and rewarding way to finish out the year strong.

Here are six steps you can take to prepare for and make the most out of your performance appraisal:

#1 – Review feedback from your previous performance appraisal

This will give you a great starting point to prepare for this year’s review. Take out your notes from your last appraisal, and try answering the following questions on paper:

  • What were the main topics discussed during your last review?
  • What goals did you set for this quarter or year? Did you meet them? Why, or why not?
  • What did your manager identify as your strength?
  • What areas of development were noted?

These notes will help you get a sense of how much you’ve grown and developed since your last performance appraisal.

#2 – Note down your key accomplishments

What projects are you most proud of from the last year or quarter? Where have you seen the most growth? During your performance appraisal, be sure to highlight, not just the “what” but also the “how” that led to attaining the goals.

A great way to showcase each accomplishment is by using the format below:

  • Goal
  • Action taken
  • Result

Aside from reaching your established goals, go a step further to describe accomplishments that you initiated such as tasks that you took upon yourself to improve your performance and that proves you’re a valuable contributor to the organization.

#3 – Be honest with yourself about tasks or behaviors that feel challenging

What are the things that hold you back from performing at your best? Have a discussion with your manager on how they can support you to improve in these areas, which could range from technical performance to time management to listening skills. Remember, the goal is to help your manager help you!

Tips on getting ahead on this:

  • Take note of what these “blind spots” are.
  • Have a list of what you could do to get better – It could be anything from wanting to take on more projects in an area you’d like to grow in, taking up a professional development course or simply seeking advice from someone who does it better.
  • Present your options during your performance appraisal and talk through how you’d like to be supported.

#4 – Identify your goals for the next year

Once you take stock of your past performance, take a moment to create goals for the next year and articulate how you plan to achieve them.

While drafting your goals, look for opportunities to:

  • Expand your duties
  • Broaden your knowledge
  • Take on more responsibility

Be as specific as possible with your goals (e.g., “Double engagement on the company Twitter posts” instead of “Improve on social media”) so that you can accurately track your performance over the year. You can refine these during your performance appraisal with your manager.

#5 – Prepare for the performance appraisal conversation

You may be looking forward to getting a promotion, a raise or an annual bonus. Your performance appraisal also serves as an opportunity to get feedback from your manager on areas they feel you have excelled in as well as any areas of improvement that you may need to focus on in the next year. In each of these cases, the conversation may feel difficult or emotional in other ways.

Remind yourself that these conversations exist for your own growth and development, and try to approach the meeting in a calm and collected state. Use your performance appraisal as an opportunity to also share constructive feedback.

#6 – Have an open mind

While the feedback you receive may be the opposite of what you expected, it’s important to look at it with an open mind. With the right mindset, you can view feedback as a gift! This article from The Muse also shares great insights on how we can stop taking criticism so personally (and make it easier to move on).

After a performance appraisal, we often overlook the positive feedback shared and exaggerate negative reviews. Celebrate your success and set yourself up to make progress in your growth areas!

What gets you through this time of the year? We’d love to hear from you.

Moving laterally to move upwards

1351 900 Brenda Akinyi

Are career paths ladders or lattices? When we think about promotions and progression in our careers, we often expect this to come in terms of vertical moves. However, before turning down an opportunity for moving laterally (meaning a move within your own company or to a new organization with similar pay and responsibility level) what do you need to consider?

We hosted Sales, Marketing and Advertising professionals for a networking event in Nairobi. We had several leaders in these fields  –Christopher Madison, CEO at Dentsu Aegis, Elizabeth Karani, Country Manager at Beauty Click and Charles Kariuki, Global Sales Manager at Ecozoom — shared some insights on how moving laterally across positions could eventually lead to one climbing up the ladder.

moving laterally
Our panelists (from right): Christopher Madison, Elizabeth Karani, Charles Kariuki and our East Africa MD Ariane Fisher moderating the session

They emphasised the need to consider what you stand to gain by making this horizontal move. Here are a few of their main tips:

Forget titles!

Chris reiterated that it is far more important to focus on who you will become rather than what your title will be. Will you get an opportunity to expand your skills? e.g. as a communicator, advertiser, analyst or recruiter?

Charles also brought up the compensation aspect . We sometimes focus on the fact that moving laterally will give us a similar level of earnings that we overlook other complimentary benefits. This might be in the form of more flexible hours; less travel required a more inspiring leadership team or a different team culture.

moving laterally
Brief networking session between Elizabeth and some of the attendees

What do you stand to learn?

According to Elizabeth, a horizontal move presents an opportunity to learn new skills. Stay curious and know what you like and want. Make your experiences count and be intentional about what you want to accomplish.

Learning new skills will help you stay fresh and current and helps you remain competitive. A lateral move will also give you the opportunity to understand a different facet of the organization and give you more visibility with new team members and managers. This could eventually lead to a promotion when opportunities arise.

Have an end goal in mind

Charles stressed the importance of having the end-result in mind while being flexible in your methods. “What counts is you’re making yourself better where you are,” he said. Seek out ways in which you will increase your achievements by broadening your knowledge base and trying out new things.

One practical way of doing this is educating yourself on where you need to be at the next level, in terms of skill and experience. Chris suggested that you can do this by looking at job descriptions of the positions you want. Compare with where you are at the moment and start filling in the gaps in skills that you may not currently possess.

“Linkedin is a great tool to learn about these gaps,” Elizabeth suggested.

Chris Madison interacting with some of the attendees after the panel discussion

“Keeping your financial and life goals in mind, helps you to start making better decisions on where you should be and how fast you want to get there,” said Chris. “You can then do the math and push yourself harder,” he added.

In conclusion, having your goals in mind, looking beyond the titles and the salary aspect of shifting positions will often make the path towards making that final decision a bit clearer.

Next steps:

Before making the move, ask yourself these questions to decide on your next course of action:

  • What are my career goals?
  • What are my personal and financial goals?
  • What do I stand to learn in this new position?
  • Besides a higher salary, what other benefits am I looking for?
  • Does this move offer the possibility of a vertical progression?

Have you made a lateral move that has propelled your career upwards? We’d love to hear from you, do let us know in the comment section what you learnt and how the experience shaped your career.

Are you interested in receiving more career resources straight to your inbox? Subscribe here!