Thinking Differently About Your Annual Review

Your annual review is an important part of your success as a team lead, and as a software engineer. However, not everyone truly understands their value and how to leverage them properly. As a team lead, I’ve seen too many self reviews that have very little content, much less supporting details to emphasize their wins, strengths, and their impact that they’ve made. I understand, it’s tedious. But if people understood their true value, it should be different. You don’t want to write a novel, but you need more than just a couple of sentences. But why?

Sell Yourself

Understand that your self review is like your resume. It isn’t for you. Your annual review in general is about communicating to your boss, and the people above your boss, your value in the company. Your boss likely knows your contributions, but does your VP? The CTO, or CEO? Not likely. How about HR or people in charge of making salary decisions? Even less likely. Your job is to sell yourself and your value to them, as well as your boss.

If you look at it from that lens, then you need to understand what to communicate, and how to communicate it. Use terminology they’ll understand. Change the net result of your communication too to make it convincing and actionable for your audience. Just like your resume, highlight what you accomplished, but also the value that each accomplishment gave to the company. Do the same for your strengths, and every other item in your review.

Understand the Use of Your Annual Review

Your annual review isn’t a box to check at the end of the year. You must understand what it’s used for. These documents are used for:

  • Layoff decisions – layoffs are going to happen? They’re less likely to lay off someone bringing lots of value to the company compared to someone who may contribute as much, but failed to communicate it
  • Promotions – want a promotion? Clearly communicate what you’re doing, and the impact. And this is a verifiable piece of evidence that you deserve the promotion, or it indicates what you need to work on to achieve that promotion
  • Salary compensation – want a better raise? Use this as a bargaining chip in your negotiation. Or allow it to speak for itself. If you highlight well what you’ve done, you’ll have a greater chance at being given a better raise to begin with

Use your annual review as a means to help yourself. There are many things you need to do regularly to help yourself in your career. This is one of them.