How to Not Mess Up Your Annual Review for Engineers

annual review

This is a post by Anthony Fasano, PE.

Over the past week, I received at least 10 e-mails or phone calls from Institute for Engineering Career Development (IECD) members asking if I could help them prepare for their annual performance reviews. Most of the e-mails or phone calls started like this: “Anthony, I have my annual review tomorrow, and I was hoping I could speak to you about it.” These calls and requests inspired me to write this post to emphasize the importance of this yearly event and give out some pointers for not messing it up.

Your annual performance review is a great opportunity to reflect upon your career progress and maybe your one opportunity each year to present this progress to your employer. Here are five things you can do to get the most out of your annual review and not mess it up like many engineers do:

Prepare Ahead of Time – Most engineers, as I indicated above, wait until a day or two before to start preparing or even thinking about their annual reviews. If you had a big project deadline on Friday, would you wait until Thursday night to work on it? No, of course not. Make your review just as important as all of your work deadlines—otherwise, you are putting your development LAST, and that is never a good thing. Start preparing one to three months before the actual review.

Spend Time Reflecting and Writing – A few months before your review, reflect on the year that you have had. Make notes of all of your accomplishments as well as things you would like to improve upon. Where possible, quantify your accomplishments. For example, “Brought in $50,000 worth of business to the firm.” Use these notes to either prepare a formal document that you can submit to your supervisor or to answer a pre-review questionnaire, if your supervisor gives one to you. This document should be submitted two months before your review to give your supervisor time to review, digest, and utilize the information in evaluating your performance, raise, and potential promotion.

Be Clear on Your Goals – During the actual review (and in your documentation that you submit), you should review all of your goals with your supervisor so he or she understands what you want to accomplish. You should present these goals in a way that reflects the benefits that accomplishing this goal will bring to the company. For example, “I would like to bring in $100,000 worth of new business to help increase our company’s profit margin.” Do not write, “I would like to bring in $100,000 in new business so that I get promoted to Principal.”

Understand What Is Expected of You – Your review should be a back-and-forth conversation. Just as you should lay out your goals, you should also ask your reviewers what they expect from you over the next year. This is SO IMPORTANT, but seldom done by engineers. It’s great to have goals, but if they are inconsistent with what your company expects of you, the end result will most likely not be good. This is usually the reason engineers don’t get promotions they are shooting for. They didn’t accomplish what their companies wanted them to. It doesn’t mean that they weren’t productive or effective, but their productivity wasn’t focused where their employers wanted it to be—and this problem could have been avoided through simple conversations during their reviews.

Thank Your Supervisor – Always thank your supervisor for his or her support over the course of the year during your review. When people feel appreciated, they will go out of their way to provide even more assistance. This should be done whether or not he or she thanks you for your hard work. Do the right thing, it will pay off.

While this post contains only five simple tips, I promise you, if implemented, they can drastically improve your review process and ultimately your whole engineering career and life!

Our IECD Yearly Plus membership includes a full coaching package to assist you with your annual review planning and preparation. This will be worth so much more than you think. Click here for information.

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To your success,

Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
The Engineering Career Coach
Author of Engineer Your Own Success

  • Carl Friesen

    I particularly like the idea of doing this kind of review ahead of time, rather than last-minute. One point to add — think of the skills you’ve learned since your last review, and what you plan to learn in the coming year. If you’re not learning, you’re not growing — whether that’s a soft skill like public speaking, or a hard one like learning the next version of a design program. It’s particularly impressive if you can point to specific certifications or goal accomplishments, such as by joining a local chapter of the Toastmasters organization to improve your speaking skills, or reaching a certain level within Toastmasters. So I suggest you ask yourself — what skills, knowledge or qualifications can you develop in order to improve your performance and marketability?

  • Anthony Fasano, PE

    Carl – awesome point, thanks so much posting it. To further build on your point, I recommend that every engineer join Toastmasters at some point in their careers. The earlier on in your career the better!

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