Surviving Your First Performance Evaluation

Posted on February 27, 2015

This is a guest blogpost written by one of our alumni ambassadors, Erica Sweeney

Graduating leads to many firsts– first interviews, first jobs, first days and first performance evaluations. It is typical for employers to review their employees at least once a year, if not every six months or quarter. They are meant to be a fair and objective assessment of an employee and opportunity for supervisors to provide feedback regarding job performance. They can range from a very formal process to more of a casual discussion. Your first one can still be terrifying, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are some tips to survive your first performance evaluation.

  1. Prepare. Prepare. Write down things ahead of time about what you want to improve, questions and concerns you’re having, how you’d like to grow, and mentally prepare yourself. Sometimes employers provide questions beforehand that you will both go over. Look over them carefully and know what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. If they don’t provide questions, still research what to generally expect, how to best review yourself and what you should discuss with your boss in your performance review.
  1. Be true to yourself. No one’s perfect and there’s no right answer. Everyone always has room for improvement. If you are asked to rate your productiveness on a scale of 1-5, and it’s only at a 3.5 right now, don’t put a 5. Now is your chance to put the true answer and discuss why in hopes of changing things to get you to that five.
  2. Be honest with how you’re feeling, but not too honest. This is not your chance to complain about everything under the sun. That will not be productive; you must watch your criticism. This is more about listening than talking.
  3. Phrase complaints in a question. It’s not about what you say- but how you say it. Know how they like to be talked to, which type of information they respond best to. Instead of saying you aren’t happy with the work you’ve been given, ask if it is possible to start gaining more experience in XYZ.
  4. Expect the 5-year question and 10-year question. AKA Where do you want to be in “x” years. This is almost always asked. And no, unfortunately there is no right answer to this. The ten-year question specifically is terrifying.
  5. Have suggestions. Especially if you are one of the younger professionals at the business. Look for new ways to bring fresh ideas and show you are up to date with emerging trends. Don’t just come to them with a problem but try to bring a possible solution as well.
  6. Try not to get emotional. Remain open minded. This is a business deal. You are a business acquisition. Don’t get heated, upset, or offended. Listen and take what is said as constructive criticism. Try your best not to take it personally but to use it to improve yourself and the working relationship.
  7. Take notes. Write everything down. Feedback is your friend. Use it. Let it empower you. Let it give you motivation and focus. Set goals to work on one suggestion given for a week straight until it becomes habit.
  8. Have an argument for a raise/title change if you’re going to ask for it. You can’t just blindly go in asking for more money. Are you prepared to answer why you deserve that? Have your responsibilities grown? Did you increase an account that led to more revenue for the company? You have to position why you deserve this title or pay increase.
  9. Don’t let the nerves take the effectiveness from it. Prepare, but don’t make yourself sick over it. Breathe!

When it comes down to it, good things will come out of your first review. Concerns will be addressed, things will be cleared up, and it will be beneficial for both you and your employer. The point is for you to learn, grow and help move the company forward because of it! For a look at performance evaluations from the employer’s perspective, check out Lauren’s blog on how she evaluates her employees.