As 2012 gets off to a start, it is important to ensure you are taking the right steps for career success. One of those steps should include making the most out of your 2011 performance review. No matter if you are content in your current role or actively seeking a new opportunity, your performance review can provide valuable information to help ensure future career success.
In preparation for your review you should have been asked to look at your performance in 2011 and document your accomplishments, successes and goals. Utilize this information to update your résumé! Even if you are not actively job searching, update your résumé. You have just spent significant time looking back on 2011; it's the perfect opportunity to add vital accomplishments and activities to your résumé while it is still fresh in your head.
Your performance discussion with your manager should also touch upon development opportunities and goals. I am currently working with my direct reports to develop their goals for 2012 and areas in which they want to learn new skills. I am working with them to create SMART goals. What are SMART goals you ask? They are goals which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. I think many people create goals, but don't have SMART structure surrounding them, never tie them to personal or corporate priorities and never really achieve success.
Don't forget to take initiative! You can set up all the SMART goals in the world, but if you don't take action or commit to achieving them, you will find yourself no better when you sit down to reflect on 2012. The great Wayne Gretsky once said, "You will miss 100% of the shots you don't take". Your career is your responsibility, so don't sit around waiting for your boss to tell you what to do or to make decisions for you. That means, don't wait until June to start acting on your goals for the year. Show yourself and your manager that you are motivated to accomplish great things and grow as a professional. As a manager, it is very disappointing to see an employee not follow through on his/her work and goals.
While you need to be detailed and SMART in your goal setting, it also is important to be detailed in your communications. Being in the recruiting industry for several years, I get contacted by job seekers and career changers on a daily basis. It amazes me how many people contact me and are not specific in their communication or they do not check their communications before they send them. We all work in a fast-paced world but that does not excuse sloppy work or communications. Taking that extra minute to make sure that you spelled the name of the person you are contacting correctly, or adding context to why you are reaching out to someone will make all the difference. One Drexel graduate recently contacted me for help with a job she applied to, and in the e-mail she spelled the company I work for wrong three times, in three different ways. She was not even consistent in her spelling error. I have seen many candidates submit cover letters with the wrong company name, job title or hiring manager name listed. Pay attention to who you communicate with and how you communicate with them. Be as detail oriented as possible and add context to your communications.
If you are not currently working, or work for a company where there is no formal performance review, take the initiative and conduct your own assessment of your accomplishments in 2011. Sit down with people you have worked with to get honest and open feedback, or document volunteer or career-related activities. Performance reviews really can help your career – you just have to be smart about them.