How to Write Your Best Self-Assessment

When it comes time for your quarterly or annual review, your supervisor will likely ask you to write an assessment of your work. This is not a time to be humble, says executive coach and author Peggy Klaus. It’s critical that you highlight what you’ve accomplished, she says, because “the days of your boss advocating for you in a way they once did, or you would like them to, are pretty much over.”

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“Given the constant changes — mergers, management shifts, downsizing — you simply must let people in the organization know who you are and what you are accomplishing,” she says. Otherwise, you could easily be passed over when it comes to promotions — or worse, when your company is determining its superstars during a round of layoffs. And even if you keep your boss updated on your day-to-day activities, she says, you’ll want to stand out in the eyes of those further up the chain, because, after all, “your direct supervisor could be gone tomorrow.”

Writing a strong self-assessment that emphasizes all your accomplishments requires you to think about your achievements throughout the year, not just during your company’s review period. Here are five ways to get ready to write your best self-assessment — and get the recognition you deserve.

Document Every Accomplishment
Your self-assessment is an opportunity to remind your boss of your value to the team. Even if you interact with your boss every day, they probably don’t know everything you are doing or what you’ve gotten done at the end of each week.

Keep a running list of goals you’ve met, obstacles you’ve overcome, and positive comments from colleagues, bosses, and clients, Klaus says. You should collect these tidbits on a daily or weekly basis. Do not assume you’ll remember them. You won’t.

Don’t forget to include any coaching or managing you’ve done to help your team succeed, Klaus says. It’s easy to leave yourself out when you debrief your boss about a project you led and focus on what everyone else did. Your boss won’t know that you persuaded the team to finish writing a report three days early because the client was going on vacation unless you say it explicitly.

Find Out What Matters Most to Your Boss or Company
After keeping track of your accomplishments all year, you’ll probably have quite a list. Narrow it down by focusing on the work and projects that are most important to your boss and organization, not just the ones that matter most to you, says Kathleen Hajek, vice president at MVP Executive Search and Development. To start, review your job description, she says, and note the key aspects and goals of your position.

Make sure your priorities are in line with your boss’s by writing an outline for your self-assessment and asking for feedback ahead of time, Hajek says. Share the outline with your boss and say, “Here’s what I’m thinking in terms of areas I’d like to talk about during my review. Do you agree? What am I missing?”

If you don’t want to present a written outline, Klaus suggests asking your boss if there are any topics they want to be absolutely sure are covered during the performance review, and then focus your self-assessment mainly on those topics.

Call In Backup
If you’re struggling with how to frame your assessment, take a minute to think about the characteristics your bring to your job (good listener, reliable, creative thinker) versus what you do at your job, says Melissa Hook Shahbazian, an innovation coach and graphic facilitator at Lime. She recommends checking out the themes outlined in Strength Finders, a leadership tool developed by the Gallup Organization. This will give you another way of looking at your talents as well as language you can use to describe them — beyond the predictable buzzwords.

Before you start writing your self-assessment, Shahbazian suggests asking a trusted colleague or two for feedback. Simple questions such as, “What are my top strengths when we work together?” and “Can you give an example of when you’ve seen me use that strength?” can provide an outside perspective. Quoting what your colleague said about you in your self-assessment also shows leadership that you took the initiative to find out how others perceive you, she says.

Practice Your In-Person Meeting
When you go over your assessment, you might find it uncomfortable to list your achievements face to face. Klaus recommends practicing short, pithy, and entertaining monologues about what you’ve accomplished and plan to achieve at work — either in front of the mirror or with a friend or partner. “Make them conversational so it sounds like a story with examples,” she says. “They need to be said with passion, energy, and delight. It’s not a laundry list of activities.”

And resist the urge to deflect praise, Klaus says. When your boss compliments you on a job well done during your performance review, say, “Thank you. I worked really hard on that. I’m glad you noticed.”

Include Your Career Aspirations
Your supervisor shouldn’t do all the talking during your review. This is your time to let them know where you see yourself over the next five years and ask for their help to get there. You might also consider taking the opportunity to thank your boss for their mentorship or coaching, Klaus says.

“Not only should you advocate for yourself,” says Mary Olson-Menzel, president of MVP Executive Search and Development, “but you should also be a positive reflection on your boss in whatever way you can. If everything is working right, managers should be advocating for their employees’ growth and employees should be doing whatever they can to make their boss and department look good.” If your boss has a sense of where you want to go, they’re in a much better position to make it happen for you.

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