Over the past week, I received at least 10 e-mails or phone calls from The Engineering Mastermind (TEM) members asking if I could help them prepare for their annual engineering career performance reviews. Most of the e-mails or phone calls started like this: “Anthony, I have my annual performance review tomorrow, and I was hoping I could speak to you about it.” These calls and requests inspired me to write this post to emphasize the importance that this yearly event holds for your engineering career and give some pointers for not messing it up.
Your annual performance review is a great opportunity to reflect upon your engineering career progress and maybe your one opportunity each year to present this progress to your employer. Here are five things you can do to get the most out of your annual performance review and not mess it up like many engineers do:
Prepare Ahead of Time – Most engineers, as I indicated above, wait until a day or two before to start preparing or even thinking about their annual performance reviews. If you had a big engineering project deadline on Friday, would you wait until Thursday night to work on it? No, of course not. Make your review just as important as all of your work deadlines—otherwise, you are putting your development LAST, and that is never a good thing. Start preparing one to three months before the actual review date.
Spend Time Reflecting and Writing – A few months before your review, reflect on the previous year. Make notes of all of your accomplishments as well as things you would like to improve upon. Where possible, quantify your accomplishments. For example, “Brought in $50,000 worth of engineering business to the firm.” Use these notes to either prepare a formal document that you can submit to your supervisor or to answer a pre-review questionnaire, if your supervisor gives one to you. This document should be submitted two months before your review to give your supervisor time to review, digest, and utilize the information in evaluating your performance, raise, and potential promotion.
Be Clear on Your Goals – During the actual review (and in your documentation that you submit), you should review all of your goals with your supervisor so he or she understands what you want to accomplish in your engineering career. You should present these goals in a way that reflects the benefits that accomplishing this goal will bring to the company. For example, “I would like to bring in $100,000 worth of new business to help increase our company’s profit margin.” Do not write, “I would like to bring in $100,000 in new business so that I get promoted to Principal Engineer.”
Understand What Is Expected of You – Your review should be a back-and-forth conversation. Just as you should lay out your goals, you should also ask your reviewers what they expect from you over the next year. This is SO IMPORTANT, but seldom done by engineers. It’s great to have goals, but if they are inconsistent with what your company expects of you, the end result will most likely not be good. This is usually the reason engineers don’t get the promotions they are shooting for. They didn’t accomplish what their companies wanted them to. It doesn’t mean that they weren’t productive or effective, but their productivity wasn’t focused where their employers wanted it to be—and this problem could have been avoided through simple conversations during their performance reviews.
Thank Your Supervisor – Always thank your supervisor for his or her support over the course of the year during your review. When people feel appreciated, they will go out of their way to provide even more assistance. This should be done whether or not he or she thanks you for your hard work. Do the right thing, it will pay off.
While this post contains only five simple tips, I promise you, if implemented, they can drastically improve your review process and ultimately your engineering career and life!
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success