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Your first year as a graduate: handling performance reviews

GradAustralia

Performance reviews are a great opportunity to learn about your career progression. Here are 6 tips for graduates approaching their first performance review.

Ah, the performance review. Enough to make even the boldest of us quake a little in our boots. But it doesn’t have to be like this. After all, the purpose of performance reviews is simply to help us learn more about ourselves and to grow. Remember, most of the time our employers only want us to succeed – reviewing your work is a great way to learn how to do that!

Performance reviews are typically held once a year. You and your manager will review your work and what you have accomplished during this time. It’s also an opportunity to discuss remuneration such as salary and bonuses and where your graduate career is headed.

Here are some strategies to help you approach your performance review:

Know what you want

Remember, this is your career – and no one else is going to be as interested in it as you. It’s critical therefore to enter a performance review knowing what you would like to get out of it. Do you want a promotion? An internal transfer? A move to a new location? Study or professional development opportunities? Be clear on your intention for the performance review. This will then help you prepare your thoughts – whether it’s questions to ask or arguments to put forward – and will help you to guide the conversation where you can.

Be open to feedback

This is key! Performance reviews are an opportunity to really listen to what your manager and the team think you could improve, particularly after being part of a graduate program. Maybe it’s learning to speak up in meetings, to pay more attention to detail or to learn how to look at the bigger picture in a more strategic way. Whatever it is, this feedback is extremely valuable and if taken on board can help you to grow in your role and beyond.

Ask questions and get clarification

If you don’t understand feedback that is given to you, don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s important that you are clear on what you are being asked to do – and how to do it. The performance review is a time that is dedicated specifically to you and your development – so be selfish, use that time and ask the questions to get the answers that you need.

Agree on a path forward

It’s important during your performance review that you set the expectations for your performance in the future. Know what you’re being asked to do going forward and set in place some performance metrics with which you can measure your progress. This will provide an objective measure in your future performance reviews.

Know your worth

If you are planning to negotiate your salary or bonus, it’s important to know your numbers. Find some benchmarks for comparison – whether that’s internal or external such as other organisations or industry averages – so you have something to compare to. Be sure you are able to point to examples of things you have accomplished and the reasons why you deserve higher pay.

Don’t lose your cool!

If you do truly believe that you are being unfairly criticised or don’t believe in the feedback that you are given, be careful in the way you respond. Taking a defensive or aggressive attitude and showing that you aren’t open to feedback – and therefore growth and personal development – may not be the best move. Sometimes, it is best to take some time to reflect on the feedback you have been given. You can take the time to prepare a counter argument or examples and then meet up again with your manager at another point in time. During your performance review, feel free to say that you would like to take some time to reflect and ask if you can pick up this discussion again later.

For more tips on surviving and thriving in your graduate program, check out GradAustralia’s article about establishing strong professional relationships.