How to Conquer the Dreaded Performance Appraisal

iStockphoto.com |  SIphotography

iStockphoto.com | SIphotography

You’re rolling into the end of the business year. You receive the dreaded email from Human Resources that performance appraisals are approaching, your self-evaluation document is attached, and your department head is clearing her schedule to get all the reviews completed over the next couple weeks. Suddenly, you don’t feel so well.

Performance appraisals can cause a lot of anxiety. A lot is at stake – not only is your employment (and livelihood), up for discussion, but many companies tie salary increases, bonuses, and promotions to performance reviews. However, with a little planning and a lot of diligence you can walk into your evaluation confident with confidence.

Don’t wait until review time to prepare. There are game-changing activities you can execute throughout the year that will help you own your review.

  • Keep meticulous notes about your work and accomplishments on an ongoing basis. You don’t want to wait until the end of the year to recall the important details of your impressive achievements.

  • Monitor your documented yearly or project goals. Review your notes against those goals – frequently. Not only will this help you during your appraisal, but will also allow you to re-prioritize and adjust so your accomplishments and goals are always in tandem throughout the year.

  • Request informal quarterly “check-ins” with your boss to ensure that you and management are aligned on your performance and yearly goals. If you routinely calibrate what you are doing with the expectations of your company, you can head off any conflict early before it becomes an issue. Think of it as preventative care for your yearly review.

When performance appraisal time itself does roll around, most often the first official step is the dreaded self-evaluation. Though engaging an honest assessment of your own work can seem daunting, the self-evaluation can be one of your strongest assets. This is your chance to present an unfiltered version of your accomplishments. Remember:

  • This is not the time to be modest. Talk up your achievements. Use those great details you’ve been jotting down throughout the year.

  • Metrics or other tangible evidence of your achievements will bolster your case. The more the better.

  • Highlight teamwork and collaboration. Share credit with co-workers and departments that were instrumental in your success. Demonstrate a track record of accomplishing goals through others.

 Then it’s time for the performance appraisal itself. Walk into your manager’s office with confidence because you’ve prepared – you are ready! As your review begins, remember that your appraisal should be a discussion. This is about your future; don’t be passive, actively engage your manager, and be your own biggest fan. Consider the following strategies:

  • Your manager has already formed a position on your general job performance, and your job is to influence that view. to whatever degree you are able. The planning and diligence will pay off. Even during a course of a stellar review, be prepared to proactively highlight your accomplishments, and demonstrate the tangible value you’ve brought to the company. If you can back this up with real numbers, even better.

  • Plot your future. Remember, every appraisal is an opportunity to review where you are and where you are going. You likely have a future with your present employer and beyond. How does your current job performance factor into your goals for your future? Build a professional development plan with your manager – an open, collaborative discussion will provide you insight into which pathways are open to you within your company, illuminate areas of potential professional growth, and cultivate new skills. If you truly take an active role in planning your career, this will pay off long beyond the next appraisal period.

  • If you receive negative feedback – and we all will at some point – don’t let it throw you off your game. Listen carefully. Write down the feedback. If you believe the criticism is valid, commit to your professional improvement, and initiate a dialogue about mutually agreed upon steps to guarantee that will happen. If you believe the feedback is not valid, challenge it on the spot, especially if you can provide tangible evidence that refutes it. It’s essential that you don’t get upset or angry, and that you keep a cool head. How you respond to negative feedback will reflect directly upon your emotional intelligence, so be respectful and thoughtful in your response. In any case, be your own champion.

Philip Roufail contributed to this article.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.

Seven Signs it Might be Time to Look For a New Job

iStockphoto.com |  kaipong

iStockphoto.com | kaipong

Jobs are not meant to last forever. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American worker will have more than eleven jobs before age fifty, and that number is expected to grow. While some transitions are out of your control, eventually you could find yourself in the wrong job, at the wrong time.

Here are seven signs that it might be time to explore the job market for better prospects.

You and your manager are not aligned on your job requirements and career path. Everyone has a boss – even the CEO of a public company has to answer to a Board of Directors. Do not assume you and your supervisors share a common vision. Some potential red flags:

  • No clear engagement from management in career discussions.

  • Differing ideas about your role, career path, and long-term potential in the company.

  • Lack of periodic performance evaluations or feedback, or your positive achievements are not being officially acknowledged.

  • New management that has a “different way of doing things” and their “own” people. No matter how stellar your job performance, these kinds of shake-ups can fundamentally change the nature of your role. Be aware, these kinds of shakeups may also lead to new internal career opportunities.

You received a poor appraisal. It’s essential to ask yourself, “Why did this happen?” While a poor appraisal is a signal that management is unhappy with your job performance, it does not necessarily mean it is time to leave your job. Ask yourself:

  • What is the message management is trying to convey? Listen closely – if the overriding tone is that they really want to see you succeed, your leadership may be willing work with you to give you the tools to turn things around. If not, you’re in dangerous territory.

  • If your review stipulates areas in which you need to show improvement, are you capable of meeting these new expectations? If they are beyond your capabilities, it might be time to seek a better fit.

  • What strategies can you undertake to turn things around? Systemic issues can be impossible to change, whereas if you are presented with opportunities that are genuinely within your control, your long-term outlook at the company might be more promising.

  • Have you had a candid conversation with your manager about your appraisal? Painful as these discussions are, they’re essential. You may no longer be a good fit for your current role based upon shifting expectations or other factors. Best to know, so you can plan accordingly.

There’s limited opportunity for professional development. Personal growth should be part of your compensation package, providing you with challenging work that helps you hone valuable new skills that you will carry with you throughout your career. If you are bored and unchallenged, or the work is not as rewarding as you’d like, consider asking your manager to evolve your responsibilities in order to get those mental juices going. A dull role with no opportunity to expand your toolbox could signal a dead end.

You’re feeling undercompensated for your work. It’s human nature to underestimate or overestimate one’s value to a company, and even in a job that you may have outgrown it is easy to become too comfortable at the expense of progress. But before you assume you’re underpaid, do your homework. Salary survey sites with validated data, like Paysa, can tell you whether or not you are being fairly compensated for the work you do. Be prepared for what you learn – you may find out you’re earning an above-average salary for the market. Also, remember that your salary is only one piece of the overall compensation picture, and often benefits like 401(k) matches, bonuses, and generous paid time off can make up for a lower base salary. That said, if your total compensation appears to be substantially lower than the overall market, consider seeing what else is out there.

Your personal values no longer align with the corporate values and culture. This seems like an abstract concept until your company asks you to engage in uncomfortable or unethical behavior, and your job is on the line. Or maybe the company shifted from a family-centric culture to a 24/7, get-it-done-at-all-costs environment. Your reputation and sanity are two of your most valuable assets; protect them.

You’re engaged in self-sabotage. Maybe you’re unhappy at your job and you want to leave, but you can’t bring yourself to take action. Instead, you let your job performance slip – either consciously or unconsciously – secretly hoping you’ll be let go and you’ll be off the hook. No matter how justifiably unhappy you may be, it’s not a good idea to allow your job performance to slip for any reason. Stay motivated, stay engaged, and consider looking for a new environment where you’ll be happy to show up to work.

Sometimes you just need to move on. Even the best experiences have a natural life cycle. A certain level of self-awareness is essential. Only you know if your job still aligns with your best-case career scenario.

Philip Roufail contributed to this article.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.

I Just Lost My Job. Now What?

iStockphoto.com |  wildpixel

iStockphoto.com | wildpixel

Life just threw you one of its trickiest curve balls. You’ve been told by your boss you are out of a job. Regardless of the reason, you feel overwhelmed by conflicting emotions, economic pressures, and the uncertainty of your future.

Stop. Take a deep breath. You’re not alone, and a little knowledge is a lot of power in your inevitable climb back into the workforce.

It’s natural to feel lost, scared, and discouraged. In this day and age of an increased focus on corporate profitability and shortening career tenures, the experience of losing your job – either through layoff or getting fired – is increasingly common.

Time to refocus. Effectively managing the situation and preparing for your next step can often enhance your success in getting prepared to reenter the job hunt. Many others have successfully navigated such situations, and so will you. Even if this unfamiliar territory, having a good map and the right tools can get you to your destination. To paraphrase an old Irish saying the road will rise up to meet you.

Step 1 – Identify What Happened: The how, when, what, and why you lost your job directly impacts your approach to finding a new position. You’ll likely face more difficult questioning if you lost your job for performance issues than if your position was eliminated as a result of a merger or acquisition. Then think about the professional skills you’ve acquired and how they’ll impact your positioning in the market, the roles you’ll pursue, and the value you’ll add to your next employer.

Step 2 – Assess Your State of Mind: Losing a job can be traumatic, so be honest with yourself – are you ready to go back into the job market? Maybe you live paycheck–to–paycheck, and you do not have the luxury to wait until you are truly ready, but any extra time you are able to devote to yourself will ultimately be helpful in your job search. Perhaps you have severance, or savings, or a whole lot of travel points you can use to give yourself the necessary time to assess, decompress, and rejuvenate. If you need time to get right, and you can make the financials work, it may be worth consideration.

Step 3 – Craft Your Story: Conventional wisdom is that it is easier to find a job while you’re still employed than when you are unemployed. When you are unemployed, you are subject to an extra level of scrutiny, and even those who suddenly find themselves out of work due to no fault of their own can find themselves on defense during the hiring process. You’ll need to open any conversation with a potential employer by explaining what happened that caused the separation from your past employer. Here’s why – if you can set the tone and deal with the tricky parts first, you’ll be able to move onto more important topics. Write down and polish your version of what happened, massage it, and practice it like you’re going on an audition for the biggest starring role in town. The “What happened” question will come up in every interview, so be prepared.

Step 4Build Your Toolbox: You’ve determined you’re ready to get moving on the job hunt. Time to actively evaluate and upgrade the essential job hunting tools. You’ll need to look at your:

Resume: Is it updated with your last position and all the accomplishments, skills, and experiences you’ve acquired there? Is it Applicant Tracking System (ATS) ready, so that it has a chance of making it through to the recruiter? And is it clean, accurate, and free of errors?

 LinkedIn Profile: Recruiters comb LinkedIn to find talent, so you need to be ready. Just like your resume, have you updated your profile to reflect your latest experience? Is it robust and detailed, with a detailed job history? Have you uploaded a recent profile photo? And work on getting some recommendations for your profile from former peers and clients – employers look at these and place value in them.

 Job Boards: Have you uploaded your latest resume to Monster, Indeed, and CareerBuilder?

 References: If you’ve been let go from a job, these are going to be even more important that you may anticipate. Your last boss may or may not be willing to speak favorably about the quality of your work. Find peers, past supervisors, internal customers, or other individuals at your last company who are willing to sing your praises. It’ll help reassure a potential employer that you’re a good risk. It bears saying, make sure you choose co-workers or supervisors you know will provide favorable feedback – I’m just saying, vet your references. I’ve seen people get burned by inadvertently providing poor references.

 Wardrobe: Don’t forget to get modern, appropriate outfits and shoes for interviews. Get your best professional attire dry cleaned and ready for action. And Buy a new pair of shoes that are for interviews only.

Step 5 – Tap Into Your Network: There is no reason to go it alone. You likely have a professional and personal support network, and generally speaking, people are willing to help. Assess your network and determine your best options. Bear in mind, your network is a matrix with multiple degrees of separation. Don’t be afraid to give your resume to friends – networks are large and often unpredictable, and your resume may land on a hiring manager’s desk and you’re a perfect fit. It happens, and a lot more than you may be willing to believe. But people can’t help you if they don’t know you need help!

Step 6 ­– Consider Alternative Employment. Temporary or contract work can do a fantastic job of paying the bills while you’re looking for a full-time role. A temp job may also become permanent, or you might learn of another opening that’s even better through that temp job. Contract positions have the added benefit of expanding your network of people, affiliations, and skill sets.

Philip Roufail contributed to this article.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.