Career Advice

Your first personal development review? What you should remember…

You might only have a vague idea of what a personal development review is all about, and you may feel slightly apprehensive about it. IDA has a number of tips to help you get the most out of this meeting with your manager.

Is your very first personal development review coming up? This article will give you an idea of what to focus on and how best to prepare yourself for this meeting with your manager that has one item – and one item only – on the agenda: You.

Be prepared

Spend some time thinking through the meeting. It is actually a good idea to make a regular note of the tasks on which you spend most time, what made you most happy, where you feel you are able to contribute something important, and which tasks drain your energy. You don’t need to spend a lot of time on this – perhaps 5 to 10 minutes on a Friday to collect the details that will form the basis for your discussions at the meeting. This is a good starting point for showing how you contribute. It also gives you the chance to consider what actually gives you professional input and job satisfaction.

Make your work visible

The personal development review is your chance to draw attention to what you can do and what you contribute to the company. Some workplaces have standard forms you can use. At others, the meeting is more of an informal chat. In any case, it is important that you present your results. Prioritise a few points you would like to get across to your manager before you leave the meeting. If you map out your job in advance, this will give you a landmark to steer by, ensuring that you say what you need to say and your manager hears what he or she needs to hear.

Some examples: I would like to do more of this but less of that because it drains me. I would prefer not to have this on my desk at all, and I miss that and would love to be able to work with it. Remember to support your points with specific examples of how it would also benefit the company. You may also consider planting a seed in your manager’s mind before your upcoming salary negotiation. You could casually mention that your manager “is welcome to remember the results you have achieved when you are discussing salary at some point”. This will plant a seed which will hopefully result in an excellent harvest at salary negotiation time.

Think strategically

If you incorporate your desires and priorities into the company’s strategy and goals, your manager is more likely to be receptive. But think realistically. What is actually possible? If the company has recently announced that redundancies are around the corner, it may not be the best time to ask for funding for an expensive course. On the other hand, if the course is essential to your job you should mention it. And if you are told that it is completely out of the question but it is essential for you to be able to perform your job, you should perhaps consider moving on.

Many companies work with so-called SMART goals. You could keep these in mind when you are setting your own goals. SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. The plan you agreed upon at the last review is also a topic at a personal development review. If you have not been to one before, you could consider what you agreed upon when you joined the company, or at the three-month review, and whether this tallies with the reality of the job.

Be honest

The personal development review is a forum in which you can discuss the difficult topics. Your manager is not your opponent but your ally and mentor. Give her or him the opportunity to guide and help you. If something is making you upset, something work-related that keeps you awake at night, then the place to mention it is at the review. For example, if you have a colleague you consider very difficult to work with, you can mention this at your personal development review. Others may have the same problem. However, you should always keep things professional, rational and constructive, and ask for advice on how to resolve the conflict. You should bear in mind that your manager is – or should be – someone you can be honest with. If you are not honest, how will your manager know which challenges you are facing?

Keep your approach professional

Always put your points in a professional context. Your manager will not be interested emotional issues – in any case, not if they originate from something negative. For example, if you have a colleague who is given all of the fun projects, you could say: “I think it would be a good idea if we covered more for each other. I believe the way it is now makes us very vulnerable. If there is more dialogue and we share projects, the team will be more robust.” This is a professional way of saying that you are actually really fed up that your colleague gets all of the fun projects. Don’t forget to push the negative feelings to one side – but use the positive ones.

Make specific agreements

Make sure that you get a written agreement specifying which new projects you have been given and the ones you will be giving up. You should also thoroughly investigate courses and in-service training before the meeting so that you can be specific about the courses you believe you need and what they will cost, etc. Remember to explain how they will benefit the company. If you have just joined the company, in-service training could maybe wait. It may be better for you to settle in the job before you attend a course. This is something to think about. But, in any case, ensure that you make specific, written agreements with your manager.

Keep in touch all year round

It is important to talk about development, goals, etc. on a regular basis. Otherwise, there is a risk that you and your goals will be forgotten when things are busy. So, talk often to your manager and don’t save everything until your personal development review – in most companies, these are only held once a year. Since you are young, newly qualified and a digital native, you probably find it natural to expect regular feedback. You will be used to this from your studies and social media. You could mention at your personal development review that you would appreciate regular feedback. You could also suggest making a brief meeting once a month a permanent fixture.