Self-assessments. Performance reviews. Talent evaluations. Employee appraisals.
Whatever you call them, they’re an unavoidable part of most companies' year-end process. And they're not exactly the most fun part of the year. In fact, there's even a start-up aimed at eliminating the annual self-assessment! But until that happens, we may as well embrace the self-assessment as the necessary evil that it is.
"Self-assessments are an unavoidable part of almost every company’s year-end process."
One of the most challenging parts of the process, beyond having to listen to your manager rehash the play-by-play of the confrontation you had with Bill from Accounting earlier in the year, is the self-assessment.
First, you have to remember all the things you’ve done throughout the year. Then, you have to put them into a coherent summary to then be judged by your boss. It's no one's idea of a good time. Even the most high-performing person can still feel some reservation when it comes to completing their self-evaluation. I totally get that.
You might be tempted to jot down a few high-level bullet points (for the moments you can actually remember). Or maybe you want to just copy and paste what you wrote in your evaluation last year. Either way, you should know that this is an opportunity for you to really highlight your accomplishments and verbalize to your boss the value you bring to the team.
Here are four ways to turn your next self-assessment into a work of art. You want it to truly reflect what you’ve done throughout the year. No uninspired pieces of junk for us Clever Girls!
Highlight your strengths
For some reason, even self-assured and confident people become overly critical and self-deprecating when it’s time to write their self-assessment. It’s like all of your insecurities (and we all have them), come to mind when you sit down to explain how you’ve spent the past year at work.
"The goal of your self-assessment should be to focus on your strengths and what you bring to the table, not to magnify the areas where you’re struggling."
It’s not that you should be deceptive, but you shouldn’t spend too much time focusing on what went wrong. Instead, talk about what you’ve done well. The lessons you’ve learned and what you’re doing to develop the areas that need work. Your goal is to show your progression over the past year.
Keep track of everything you've done throughout the year
Starting right now, keep track of every project you’ve completed, the working group you’ve participated in, training you’ve attended, etc. That way, you'll have content to pull from when it’s time to consolidate your annual achievements. There’s nothing worse than sitting down to write your evaluation and coming down with a serious case of writer’s block.
As humans, we’re prone to discarding information we don’t use on a daily basis—even if it was a positive experience. That’s why you forget about that big project you led in January that received a lot of praise from your team by the time November rolls around.
Tracking your achievements doesn’t have to be a big, elaborate process either.
A simple Excel sheet that lists the date, title/subject, who you worked on the project with, key outcomes and any miscellaneous notes will be a huge help when it’s time for you to recall all the information you need for an amazing evaluation.
Create a highlight reel of your best work
Instead of re-hashing every single thing you’ve worked on throughout the year in a boring, bulleted list, focus on creating a dynamic story based on your 3–5 major highlights. Now that you’ve been keeping a list of all your accomplishments in your tracker, it shouldn’t be difficult to scan it and come up with those things you really want your boss to remember.
Your goal should be to pick achievements that show different parts of your skill set. For example, you could choose one thing that shows your leadership ability, another that shows your technical expertise and another that shows how much of a great team player you are.
"No one—not even your manager—wants to read a 3-page report on why you’re the best person on the team."
Even if you’ve managed to complete 13 projects throughout the year, thoroughly explaining the top 3–5 will force you to focus on quality and not quantity. No one—not even your manager—wants to read a 3–page report on why you’re the best person on the team. It’s in your best interest to be brief, yet compelling—especially if you want your boss to actually read the entire document.
Provide supporting information
For every key accomplishment, you mention in your self-assessment, follow up with the words, “for example.” This will ensure you’re not just throwing vague and non-descriptive sentences together, but that you’re actually backing up what you’ve just said.
Using exact numbers and specific examples whenever you can provides additional context for your manager. That's helpful in solidifying your claims of how awesome you are.
As you can see, writing an effective self-assessment isn’t something only an experienced writer can do well. Following these tips—along with proofreading and spell-checking what you’ve written—will ensure you’re able to create a self-assessment that will make your manager take note of all you’ve been able to accomplish throughout the year.