Let’s face it. Humans are bad at remembering things. We forget to put the trash out, buy milk, or get gas for our car. We’re especially bad at remembering things for or about other people. It was pretty embarrassing when you forgot your son’s friend’s name who you carpool with, wasn’t it? So with something as important as our career, why do we leave someone else’s memory as the main determinant in our success or failure?
For those of us do the majority of our work without much day to day supervision, this is an extremely important thought. With that said, we need to figure out a way that when it comes time for an annual review, what a supervisor says about our performance isn’t going to be based on his or her grainy, moon landing video-esque memory. How do we ensure that? We provide them with the story.
Take good notes
This works best when we have systems set up and in place to record what we do on a somewhat regular basis, say daily or weekly. If it’s monthly, that’s ok too, but it’s going to take a little more work. Also, one thing I’ve noticed is that if we only do things once a month, there are months that we make excuses why we don’t need to do them. Then we don’t. If you can stick to the plan though, it’s just fine. Those that opt for weekly, or better yet daily, will find that it just becomes part of their routine. This is much more effective.
The first time you do this and go back a few months, or even a full year, you will be shocked at the stuff that you’ve accomplished. If you’re this surprised (and you were the one accomplishing those things), just imagine the items that your supervisor would have left off.
In terms of what system to use, a simple spreadsheet or word document is all you really need. If you’d like to get more involved and use complex note taking applications, feel free, but it should be something that you can get to fairly easily on your desktop or even phone. The easier it is to do, the fewer excuses you can make about not doing it. The real win-win is if you already have to log some of these items for reporting purposes. You might think, “But if I’m reporting them then why do I have to reiterate them during my evaluation? Shouldn’t they already be aware?” You’d be surprised.
Put it to use
Use this document in your annual reviews. When the meeting starts, just explain that after your supervisor gets through you’d like to present a list of achievements from the past year and items you’d like to work on in the coming year. By adding in the items you’re working on, it also sets a very positive tone, reflecting that you’re proactive in working towards the success of the company, as well as your own career.
Let your supervisor go through his or her points, then you can go through and explain your points. Some of these may conflict with what he or she said, and that’s ok. Use it as an opportunity to get on the same page and clear any misunderstandings or confusion regarding projects or your progress on initiatives. More likely however, is that it will show your supervisor how many achievements you actually had in the past year. This could give you a leg up on any promotions that may be coming up, and even makes updating your resume much easier if your dream job opens up at another company.
Document as you go, and present when you can. Because if you’re not promoting yourself, who will?