For most of us, review time is the most stressful season in the annual business cycle. It's quite common for both managers and employees to lose a night or two of sleep before review meetings are scheduled to begin, and both parties would be surprised to see how the anxiety on the other side of the table often matches and exceeds their own.
But just because you survive an awkward hour and leave your manager's office with a glowing review in hand doesn't mean it's time to exhale and forget the entire experience ever happened. A great review means you're on track…for now. To keep your career in motion and make sure you and your employer stay on good terms, you'll have to communicate your needs and ambitions clearly and walk away from the meeting with the right mindset.
What a Good Review Actually Means
A good review means you've completed a successful year, done everything you can to help your company meet its goals and impressed your supervisor by exceeding his or her expectations. In January the bar was set at a level based on your experience, your age, your current level of industry knowledge and your skill sets as identified by your employer. During the year between that day and this one, you stepped over the bar and offered more than your employer imagined you could.
Feel free to celebrate for a day or two. Your position with this firm is secure for the time being. But don't get too comfortable. The very fact that you exceeded expectations means that those expectations will now be changed in accordance with your manager's new understanding of your skills and strengths. Maybe you soared over the bar, but there's also a chance that the bar was set too low. A wise manager will be aware of both of these possibilities. And in either case, in the coming year, a level of performance once considered "exceptional" will now become "average."
The Choices that Lie Ahead
As you move forward from an exceptional review, you'll now face two options regarding your approach to your job: Do you want to stay where you are, or do you want to grow? Both options have merit and the answer you choose will depend on your personality, your relationship with your work and the circumstances of your life.
If you like where you are, stay where you are. Don't keep attempting to leap over an ever-higher bar if doing so will take you to a place you don't want to go. If you aren't ready to move into a management position, take on additional responsibilities, work longer hours, travel more or play a greater role in company decision making, have the wisdom to recognize this. Then factor these truths into the goals you set for the year ahead. Find a way to become better and better at what you do, and challenge yourself enough to stay interested and engaged without changing your situation. As you discuss this with your manager, be honest and communicate your intentions clearly.
If you're ready to let your employer raise the expectation bar and you're ready to pursue more responsibility and higher levels of demand, say so. Realize that the new "average performance" will look quite a bit different from the old average, and gear up for a greater level of challenge and proportional reward. Be ready to negotiate a salary in keeping with your intended contributions. And be ready to chase and expect (even insist upon) the level of respect that reflects your deepening commitment to the company. If your employer can't match your contributions or meet your needs, it may be time to look outside the company for your next big step.
After a Great Review
Now that a successful year is under your belt, what's next? Visit LiveCareer for a broader understanding of your options, including a resources section that offers advice on a variety of jobs and careers topics.