A good performance review is an opportunity to secure that raise or promotion you deserve, however, it can be difficult to showcase the value you add to your team and the company.
As an OfferZen Engineering Manager, I have been on both sides of the review process. Here are my tips to help you prepare for your next performance review.
1. Consistently keep track of your accomplishments
When you’re aiming for a raise and promotion, it’s important to make your case. You need to show why you think you are ready for the next step or why you should earn more money. To make a compelling business case for your raise or promotion, you need to show the impact you’ve made throughout the year.
A log of your accomplishments acts as undeniable evidence of how you are tracking against your goals.
Keep a sheet or document of your accomplishments; what you achieved, and what you did to achieve them. As far as possible, demonstrate how your input moved the needle on the company’s or your team’s goals.
I encourage all developers I manage to keep track of their achievements throughout the year:
It’s not just for your performance review; it’s for you to look back and see the impact of your work and how it assists you in your growth.
It’s easier to consistently record your accomplishments instead of starting from scratch a couple of weeks before your review. It will significantly shorten the time you need to prepare and ensure you don’t forget any vital elements.
If you haven’t kept track of your accomplishments in the past year and need to prepare for your upcoming review, here are ways to start your log:
- Write out a timeline of things that happened throughout the year:
- Include achievements and setbacks. It may take time to dig into your work history, but this will give you a good understanding of what happened.
- Be self-aware:
- Identify where you fell short and what kind of guidance you’ll need from your manager to address these setbacks.
- Ask your manager to give you feedback on your timeline:
- This will help you understand what is relevant to add in the future and whether they have a formatting preference.
Understand how your work drives business OKRs and goals
Now that you’ve created a log of your accomplishments, you need to think of how each of your accomplishments moved your organisation or team towards success. To do this, you must be aware of your organisation’s and your team’s OKRs and goals. Ask your manager if you’re unsure:
- What OKRs and goals will this project address?
- When I complete this project, what will the effect be on the team and business?
The work that you do has business value. To be most effective, you must understand the business value you generate or contribute to.
The world is becoming a lot more competitive, and as a software engineer, you need to understand both your technical and business impact. Doing so will give you an edge over other developers and help you grow your career faster.
Relating your work to company and team OKRs becomes even more important when your manager is not technical since they will not have a good view of your technical accomplishments.
Showcasing you’re a team player: remote versus in-office
Working in-office means your manager has plenty of visibility over your day-to-day interactions with colleagues. They can watch you help your teammate with a project or valuably contribute to a passing conversation.
A fully-remote role means your manager doesn’t have visibility over the smaller projects you’re contributing to and the conversations you’re having within your team.
Your performance review is not only an evaluation of your technical accomplishments but also your contribution to the team.
Actions such as removing blockers for colleagues, building the skills of your teammates or improving team processes, can make a huge difference in what value the company sees you bringing to the team.
Consistently track your contribution to the team on your accomplishments log. Give your manager insights into what you’ve been working on besides your set deliverables. If you’re contributing to OKRs and you’re a team player, your company will likely see you as a valuable asset and will be happy to give you a raise or promotion.
2. Ensure effective communication during your review
It’s even more important to relate your work to company OKRs and goals in a review with a non-technical manager. You’ll need to do more work tying in what you’ve done into what the team is trying to achieve.
To do that, you need to determine the results of your work and its impact:
- Has it made something faster?
- Does it impact users directly?
- Have you increased team productivity?
3. Continuously work on your preparations and avoid surprises
You shouldn’t begin your preparations when your performance review is around the corner. You should discuss your achievements and goals with your manager in one-on-ones throughout the year.
There should be no surprises in your review from you or your manager’s side because:
- You have kept a record of your accomplishments throughout the year.
- You and your manager regularly discuss how you are tracking against your goals.
Knowing what to expect from yourself and your manager before going into the review will help make it less stressful.
If you’re not finding this to be the case, arrange a meeting with your manager before the review to discuss what you can expect.
4. Begin establishing your next goals
Part of your review will include discussing your next goals. Here are some ways to give yourself good direction on where you are wanting to go:
- Establish a long-term goal – this could be for the next five years and it shouldn’t be less than three.
- Determine what smaller goals you’ll need to achieve in the next year to move towards your long-term goal – these will be your next established goals.
- Relate your smaller goals to the company’s mission.
Setting professional goals can be difficult but it’s an important first step to securing the raise and promotion you want from your next performance review – here is a step-by-step process to assist you.
5. Adopt a growth mindset and focus on the outcome of your feedback
The attitude you adopt going into your review affects not only the experience you’ll have but also what you take away from it. This is especially important with the feedback you receive from your manager. Adopting a growth mindset can help you get the most value out of this time.
You should always view performance feedback positively as the person is trying to assist you in your professional growth.
To adopt a growth mindset, you must believe feedback is a helpful resource you can use to improve your work and accelerate your growth.
When you receive negative feedback, don’t think of yourself as a failure or that you’re not good enough. Rather utilise the feedback to improve the impact of your work on the business and your own growth.
6. Get a good night’s rest
You want to feel fresh and on top of your thoughts in your review – so try to get a good rest the night before. It’s easy for those late-night nerves to bombard your thoughts, but you don’t want to go into your review tired and stressed.
Focus on remaining calm, knowing that you have prepared all that you could for the review.
Karin Bothma is a senior software engineering manager at OfferZen, with extensive experience in software development and leading engineering teams. She currently leads an engineering team at OfferZen and is helping other engineering managers drive performance improvements in their teams. When she’s not coaching teams to reach their highest potential, she’s out on the trails with her Jack Russels or playing board games with friends.