by Joe Turner
If you’re expecting a performance review soon, understand that there’s no place to hide nowadays.
Over the years, the corporate performance review has been seen as the ticket to our annual raise or quarterly bonus. That notion has become almost automatic in our thinking, but it will be a big mistake in an economic downturn.
This obsolete way of thinking will certainly net you less in compensation or bonus, if you receive any. If you expect an automatic raise or promotion, your employer may doubt your continued viability, especially if corporate revenue is shrinking.
A Raise is a Reward, Not a Right
Executive recruiter Neil McNulty advises being careful about how you handle your performance review. Too often employees have perceived the performance review as a mere ritual to the next raise. If sales are down in your company, expect cuts all across the board. As the principal recruiter with the McNulty Management Group out of Norfolk, VA, McNulty advises his candidates from the perspective of one who has seen the ups and downs of the economy over the past 20-plus years.
As a result, Neil suggests that you not expect an equivalent raise for the same amount of output you might have received in the past. This is a time to let go of the old expectations when it comes to this year’s performance review. Too many people think that if they received a 7 percent raise in the past, then that’s their right, and they better get it. That’s old thinking that will have no traction these days.
As an alternative, be prepared to think and talk “return-on-investment,” meaning preparing ahead of time by developing a list of examples of how you have helped positively impact the company’s bottom line. If you’re in management, this exercise may seem obvious and unnecessary. If so, lose that attitude. Instead, use this as an opportunity to make sure that nothing is lost in translation. Your review can be your moment to nail it and re-emphasize those specific achievements and accomplishments that you can take credit for. After all, demonstrating your ROI can mean the difference between nothing and thousands of dollars to your personal bottom line, not to mention additional security and consideration for future responsibilities within the organization.
You may need to do some additional preparation for your review. One strategy is to approach the review as if it were an interview. If you were a job-seeker today, you would realize that skills and length of service are no longer selling points. Differentiating yourself in some memorable way by citing past accomplishments has become a ticket to success in today’s competitive economy. That means answering the “what’s in it for me?” question. In the performance review, the question translates to “what have you done for me lately?”
Think of the performance review as an opportunity to apply for your job as if it were the first time. Take nothing for granted and get notes on paper to back up your conversation in the meeting. If you’re a revenue-generator in the company, be prepared to list the specific gains you contributed. If you’re not a revenue-generator, be prepared to illuminate instances when you’ve saved the company money. When you develop your list, be as specific as you can, and be sure to include the specific result in your example.
In today’s economy, be careful how you handle performance reviews. You can’t afford to take the same old mindset of entitlement. See your past performance as part of a bigger picture that has helped the organization’s bottom line. Arrive prepared to discuss specific examples to answer the “what have you done for me lately?” question.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
As a recruiter, Joe Turner has spent the past 15 years finding and placing top candidates in some of the best jobs of their career. He makes it easy for anyone to find and land the job they really want all on their own in the shortest time possible. Discover more insider job-search secrets.