As an employee, you hope your supervisor knows about all the valuable contributions you’ve made, big or otherwise, for clients, for team members, and certainly for them. The truth is, while accomplishments on key projects may come with their share of kudos, there’s likely much less visibility into your more regular feats of development, execution, collaboration, and problem-solving. It’s time to consider a more proactive approach to professional self-advocacy.
In my experience, most professionals prefer not to toot their own horn, as they don’t want to be perceived as egotistical but more of a team player. Yet, it is wise to periodically select relevant accomplishments and share them with your supervisor. I may be stating the obvious, but it bears noting because employees sometimes think to the contrary - supervisors are not omniscient.
Let’s take this example of customer satisfaction, that in many organizations today is a corporate objective. Perhaps your company has an evaluation method in place such as the industry standard Net Promoter Score. Imagine you have been working with a customer and you have just surpassed a significant milestone in a project and your client has sent you an email expressing gratitude for your efforts. Rather than a generic compliment, your client took care to specify some of your best attributes that made a positive difference in the progress of their project, and ultimately their satisfaction being in partnership with your company. This is the perfect example to share with your supervisor. (He/she might even forward it to Marketing to see if there’s an opportunity for a case study or other form of testimonial that would serve mutual interests.) You would be doing yourself a disservice to assume that somehow your supervisor knows how the client values your work (unless they were carbon copied on the email) or that because it was shared via email rather than through a corporate survey that the credit is nullified.
I recommend taking the time to reflect on a variety of examples that are applicable to the work you perform and the parties with whom you interact both inside and outside the organization. How have you made a difference, supported others, upheld operational excellence, or exceeded expectations? In other words, what value do you bring and does your supervisor know this outside of the annual review period?
As companies focus more on performance management rather than just personnel management, the frequency of reviews between supervisor and direct report is increasing from the stereotypical once a year event to quarterly. The more frequent the conversation the more opportunity there is to discuss current achievements (and challenges) versus raising a topic which occurred many months or almost a year ago. Please don’t assume you can rely on your memory. Try setting a calendar reminder that allocates 1 hour per month to document activities and feedback that support progress on or completion of specific objectives. You’ll then be more prepared to respond to or even initiate a discussion with specific examples that demonstrate the competencies most relevant to your role.
Moreover, don’t think too narrowly about your audience. There are other times besides a review and other people in addition to your supervisor who may be interested in your accomplishments. At a minimum, think about job security. Companies big and small are making difficult headcount decisions all the time. You don’t want to fly under the radar and risk being overlooked or underestimated. Furthermore, in terms of career trajectory, consider what additional opportunities exist for you within your organization, as well as opportunities outside your organization. An HR Business Partner, leader of another business unit, recruiter or even a new acquaintance from a networking encounter might solicit you and it benefits you to be prepared to articulate your value-add if you found yourself in an appropriate situation.
Presentation matters, and the confidence with which you can speak to concrete examples of your decision-making, problem-solving, interpersonal, and other highly sought after skills, the easier for others to picture you applying those skills to a current or future need of theirs. While you wouldn’t want to be a walking Wikipedia of all your greatest achievements, having one or two well thought out examples at the ready can eliminate the hesitation and stumbling for words that most of us experience when asked direct questions about our successes.
Similar to how you would prepare for your formal performance review or a job interview, my advice is to get into the habit of periodically asking yourself some probing questions like the ones listed below and preparing your answers:
The insight you would glean from this kind of dialogue would be extremely valuable – in terms of self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-advocacy. Even though you may be 11 months out from your next formal review, and you might not even be remotely considering entering the job market, imagine the possibilities of leveraging the 3rd party perspective when someone provides you with specific feedback and developing your individual value proposition. This exercise in self-discovery alone may be worth the effort and heightened further when appropriately shared. It’s all part of your story and an important strategy to keeping people interested in what you contribute to the organization.
So polish it up and start tooting that horn!