It’s easy to think of your annual review as a passive experience. You could just sit there and nod while your boss lists your shortcomings or assigns you with new goals for the coming year. Hopefully not! Even if your boss conducts a decent annual review, it’s up to you to own both your career path and this opportunity for professional growth.

Think of your career as if it were a sports game. Don’t settle for just being a spectator in the bleachers. You need to be out there on the field. These tips will help you get off the sidelines and start playing an active role in your annual review.

1| Review Yourself First

Not everyone likes hearing how they could be better at their job, even if it’s true. Maybe it makes you feel anxious, defensive or less confident. One of the best ways to get ahead of your reactionary emotions is to start reviewing yourself before your meeting with your boss. That’s right, beat your boss to the punch.

Be your own worst critic. When you review yourself first, you can take an honest, introspective look at your accomplishments, failures, strengths and areas for improvement. It’s often easier to accept your own judgment before someone else’s. Unfortunately, we don’t always succeed or do our best. It’s not uncommon to feel anger, self-doubt or sadness over professional missteps. If you start processing your emotions now, similar observations from your boss will be much easier to deal with. You’ll be prepared with a course of action, not just those initial raw emotions.

Don’t forget about your big wins. It’s important to celebrate everything from little victories to rockstar moments. Whether it’s because you bring out the best in your coworkers, or you’re always eager to learn new skills, or because you landed that huge new account, own it! Ride the wave of your past achievements and special abilities to fuel future greatness.

Think inside and outside the box. If your company has specific forms or processes to aid with the annual review, use them for your self-review. The shared format and context will make it easy for you to compare your self-review with your boss’s. It might even save you both a lot of time since you won’t need to dive into as much detail on the areas where you both agree. On the other hand, don’t let a poor process box you in. If another method would be more beneficial, add it to the mix. Don’t be afraid of using new ways of compartmentalizing feedback to enhance the conversation with your boss.

2| Request Support from Your Boss

This may sound strange because it’s your review, but your review is a great time to reinforce your boss’s positive behaviors. If they come in each morning with a genuine smile that brightens your day, tell them how much it means to you. If they are stellar as a sounding board those times when you get stuck, thank them. If they support you with project resources, let them know how it helps. Your boss should appreciate the information. Knowing what’s working can be immensely valuable, and they can keep doing these things.

You can also use this opportunity to ask for anything you need (or don’t need) from your boss so that you can achieve your new goals. Maybe you benefit from weekly one-on-one time together. Or maybe it would work better if your boss delivered constructive criticism in a different way. Maybe you could use support in the form of a training course or a change in your schedule. They may not grant every request, but if they care about your professional growth and the success of their team, they should at least consider your requests for support. It’s up to you to speak up for what you need.

3| Ask for Feedback Regularly

When you request input, whether it’s from your boss, your peers or other coworkers, it works wonders. Be clear about your intentions—you’re not fishing for compliments. You might ask for feedback in general or focus on something specific. The effort itself reflects positively on you, and you can use the evaluations to better yourself personally and professionally. This proactive approach allows you to transform your review from an annual event into a continuous loop.

Once you abandon your seat on the bleachers, don’t look back. You’ll open yourself up to new opportunities for a brighter future. Besides, if you’re not even on the field, how else do you expect to move up from the minors to the majors, or make it to the hall of fame? Get off the sidelines, and start playing an active role in your professional development. You’ve got this!

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Meg G. Anderson

Founder & Editorial Consultant, Luminary Works

Since the early 2000s, Meg has been passionate about helping brands spread their mission and market their expertise through a variety of career hats, including copywriting, web design, project management, and internal communications. She founded Luminary Works in 2016 to help small, medium, and family businesses create stories worth telling and messages worth sharing. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and their dog, Howard.

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