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How to handle your appraisal like a pro

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For most, the thought of having a yearly appraisal fills us with trepidation. However, your end of year review is a great opportunity to show your boss what fantastic, hardworking employee you are, as well as being the perfect time to voice any concerns or questions you have about your role.

In anticipation of this year’s round of reviews, we asked Amy Campbell, business and IT consultancy company Waterstons’ HR Manager, to share her top tips on how to approach your appraisal – from how to best prepare and how to handle feedback, as well as how to ask for that raise you’ve secretly been hoping for!

Here’s the useful advice Amy gave to Stylist:

1. Preparing For Your Appraisal

Make sure you know ahead of time what will be discussed at your appraisal and who will be there, then prepare accordingly. Think over the successful and not-so successful projects you’ve been involved with since your last review. Analyse what went right, what went wrong, and how you think you could improve in the future when in a similar situation. It’s important to be able to demonstrate to your line manager that you’re as aware of your areas for development as you are your successes.

Spend plenty of time carefully completing your appraisal form. Thoughtful and detailed answers and comments will provide your line manager with plenty to give you feedback on. If you often work independently or you have a manager who is more hands-off, this may be the only occasion that they will get to see and hear about everything you do.

To get in the right frame of mind (i.e. confident and calm) before you go into the meeting, make sure you wear an outfit that you feel empowered and comfortable in, or even listen to some relaxing music.

2. Handling Feedback

When receiving feedback during your appraisal, be aware of your body language – avoid anything that looks defensive - and try to show that you’re listening. Ask your line manager to explain any feedback you don’t understand, even asking for examples if you’re still unsure.

Take negative feedback constructively and ask how your manager thinks you can improve. Everyone (even your manager) has areas they can develop, and feedback is a great way of doing this. In your appraisal, accept all of the feedback given, both the positive or negative. Remember that constructive feedback is a gift and not a weapon, even though it's not always easy to hear.

If you aren’t given objectives to develop, ask to agree some with your line manager, as this will allow you to measure your progress and give you defined challenges for the year to come.

You can also suggest to your line manager that you get involved with other areas of work which allows you to use your strengths and interests. For example, if you’re a really creative person, why not ask to spend some time with the marketing department. Great at communication and building relationships? Why not ask about a client facing role or learning more about your company’s sales department?

3. Asking for a Raise

If you’re been planning on asking for a pay rise, your appraisal is the perfect opportunity to do so, although it’s usually best to discuss it at the end of your meeting.

Due to the current economic climate, many of us are all too aware that organizations are freezing pay or cutting back on staff numbers. Keeping this in mind, know that you’ll have to explain to your manager why your salary should be increased, as well as the value you add to the company. Thoroughly prepare your points on why you are deserving of a raise, and communicate these to your manager with confidence.

4. After your appraisal

After your meeting, even if it hasn’t exactly gone as you had hoped, make sure to stay as professional as possible and to thank your line manager. Remember that appraisals and discussion opportunities for development can be just as difficult for the appraiser.

If you walk away from your appraisals unhappy or confused about some of the feedback you’ve received, after you’ve given it some time to think over what was discussed, ask to speak to your line manager again to clarify certain points from your appraisal.

If you had some negative feedback, take this as an opportunity to devote some time in developing those skills. Speak to your HR department about formal training programmes, coaching or if there’s any in-house training that can help you. An employee who is willing to take even seemingly short-term steps towards investing in their personal development will reap the rewards long-term in their future career.

Finally, remember that appraisals aren’t a once-a-year occurrence, but rather an on-going process. Keep a record of things you have done and projects you have worked on throughout the year so that you can review these and have it to hand for your next appraisal.

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