Career Matters

By Lily Whiteman

Earning a great review

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It’s that time of year again, when birds start singing, buds start sprouting, the days lengthen … and staffers in many federal agencies receive their annual evaluations.

So it’s also time to review techniques for earning great annual reviews:

Update: Throughout the year, update your boss on your projects every couple of weeks via emails or brief meetings. If you anticipate possibly missing deadlines or encountering other show-stopping problems, tell your boss about them when there is still enough time for trouble-shooting.

Also, inform your boss about praise you receive from other managers, partners, stakeholders, instructors, clients, or other important individuals. Do so by forwarding relevant emails to him, and by asking those who verbally praise you to email their praise to your boss and to c.c. you on such emails. Save copies of such emails and other forms of positive feedback, such as enthusiastic evaluations from attendees of your trainings or the counts of large turn-outs for events you organized.

Request Recognition: If you successfully complete a detail, ask your detail boss to give you a written evaluation when your detail ends. If your boss is “too busy” to do so, offer to write your evaluation yourself for his signature. Then, submit your signed evaluation to your boss on your regular job.

Take note: I know a fed who, justifiably, wrote an excellent evaluation for herself at the end of a detail. Soon after, when she was job-hunting, she included on her resume glowing quotes from that signed evaluation (which she had written) — which helped her land her next job.

Document: Keep a running list of all of your achievements, trainings you took, presentations you gave, conferences you attended, ways that you went the extra mile, and other noteworthy successes. Update your list after finishing each project, and immediately preserve evidence of your results and positive feedback. Why? Because your boss is more likely to remember what he achieved in the 11th grade than to, without your help, remember what you achieved 11 months ago. And how can he possibly give you full credit for achievements that he doesn’t remember?

And no matter how thrilled you were by previous projects, and associated results and praise, your memory of some successes probably faded as your attention turned to new projects and evidence of your success vanished as, for example, websites you created changed, documents you wrote went out of print, managers who witnessed your achievements departed, and praising emails got lost in the shuffle.

So the only way you can definitely capture all of your successes is to continually update your achievements list and save written and oral praise and evidence of your results. Perhaps, for example, you should save screen shots of relevant websites.

If you didn’t keep a running list of your successes this year, inventory them now. Then, remind yourself of other salient, potentially forgotten activities by scrolling through your emails and other electronic documents and by asking your close colleagues, spouse and/or other advisers to help jog your memory.

Once you have completed your list, organize it logically. For example, consider prefacing your list with a summary that explains what your main focuses this year were and why, and identifies challenges you conquered. Also, chunk similar types of achievements under headings on your list; your headings may, for example, correspond to categories of responsibilities identified in your position description.

Even if your boss doesn’t request your achievements list before he writes your evaluation, offer it to him. (You may also use your list to support your request for a Quality Step Increase or grade increase, and to help you write your resume and answer interview questions.)

If you receive an excellent annual evaluation, say so and quote selected praise from recent evaluations on your resume in a bullet that introduces this information with the phrase: “Excellent reputation.”

If your boss doesn’t incorporate your list or its gist into your evaluation, ask him during your review meeting to attach it to your review so that it will become part of your formal record.

If you receive a grossly unfair annual evaluation, ask your union how you can request reconsideration of your evaluation or how you can formally object to it.

Lily Whiteman is a federal communications expert and author of “How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job,” and a trainer of career advancement skills and communication skills. Her website is IGotTheJob.net. Email your career questions to lwhiteman@federaltimes.com.

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