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How to make your first performance review work for you

By Maureen Lynch, Director of Hays Ireland

You’re six months into your new job and your performance review is on the horizon. It’s a chance for you to reflect and an opportunity to look forward. You’ve worked hard, but now you’re nervous – how can you ensure this meeting steers your career in the right direction?

Anticipate your assessment

Every company is different, so however your employer runs their performance reviews, make sure you are fully in the know ahead of your first one so that you aren’t caught off guard. Remember to find out:

  • How will your performance be assessed? For instance, some companies may conduct objective-based feedback, whilst others have 360-degree appraisals
  • What should you prepare before the meeting? Are there any guidelines or documents on the intranet which you will need to read before? Perhaps you were set formal objectives when you joined, which you need to provide an update on
  • Who will be present during the meeting? It may well just be your manager, but some companies may ask someone from HR to sit in as well

Once you have a better understanding of what to expect, it’s time to start thinking about what you would like to get from this meeting, and how best you can prepare.

Reflect on your role

Remember, your first performance review will be a two-way conversation about your progress and performance over the last six months, and how you are finding the role. As such expect to be asked the below, and plan your answers accordingly:

  • The reality of the role, versus what you expected it to be following your interview
  • The tasks you have enjoyed and would like to be doing more of
  • The tasks you have struggled with, and what kind of support you need moving forward
  • Any changes or increments in responsibility since you joined
  • Your progress with targets and objectives
  • Any other key achievements

This meeting isn’t just about your manager assessing your performance – although this part is important. It is also about you having the chance to feedback to your manager on how you are feeling in your new role, and what you need further support with. Not only this, your manager will want to know what you are hoping to achieve before your next performance review, and how they can help you get there – which brings me onto my next point.

Be brave about your ambitions

Your first performance review isn’t just about looking back, but also looking forward. What would you like to have achieved before your next review? Maybe start by thinking bigger and visualise the next one, three, and even five years of your career. Now work back from here, and assess what you can do to move closer towards this goal over the next six months. How will you need to upskill and grow your expertise, and who in the business can help you with this?

Don’t be afraid to share your wider goals with your manager during your performance review, and ask for their advice on how you can reach them. It is important to have a clear discussion with your boss around your career ambitions, and to start this conversation early.

The day of your review

If you have prepared using the steps above, then the meeting itself should be a straightforward process. Your manager will most likely take the lead, and ask for your feedback first. Be positive and professional, and if you have any concerns or problems to raise with your manager, be sure to suggest solutions to these as well.

When your manager is feeding back to you, listen attentively to their comments and take notes on where you can improve, as well as what you are doing well, and don’t be afraid to ask for specific examples for both.

Once you move on to discussing your future goals, it’s important that you ask your manager for their help and guidance with achieving the outcome you want from the meeting.

After your first performance review, send a summary email of the points discussed to your line manager and check that both of you are on the same page. This might be something that your employer will formalise anyway, but it is a good idea to get into the habit of doing this yourself.

Don’t feel you have to wait another six months to speak with your boss again. Your first performance review is a good opportunity for you to set up an open and ongoing dialogue with your boss early on about your career progression at this company. At the end of the meeting, confirm when the next review will take place, and how you can touch base in-between to review how you’re getting on.

Your first performance review isn’t something to be dreaded, more approached with an open mind, and a clear idea of the points you would like to get across to your manager following your first six months at the company. If you do this, and prepare for the meeting as thoroughly as possible, you give yourself the opportunity to steer your career in the right direction from the very beginning.

For more information on your recruitment needs, please contact your local consultant

About this author

Maureen joined Hays in 2000 where she specialised in Senior Accounting and Finance recruitment. With over 17 years’ experience, Maureen is the Director for Cork, Limerick and Galway along with over overseeing the Banking and Construction & Property operations in Cork. She also provides training expertise in the area of candidate screening and interviewing.

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