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Master the Annual Review

Master the Annual Review

You would think that working hard, doing a good job and getting results would guarantee a good annual review and a decent salary increase. Perhaps at some companies that's true. But at many companies, doing a good job is not enough to guarantee a decent raise. Even worse, employees who have stayed with one company and have not sought out offers from other employers tend to earn less than their peers who have changed jobs at least once during the past 10 years.  

It doesn't have to be that way. If you put some of the same energy into making sure the right people know you're doing a good job that you do in actually doing your job well, you may get a salary commensurate with your accomplishments. Here are three tips to help you get the most out of your annual review:

1. Make It Easy for Your Boss

Bosses hate doing annual reviews. To do them right takes work. Moreover, normally no one but you really cares about what the review says. Most importantly, a lot of bosses don't know what their workers do on a daily basis or what they have accomplished. If something significant happened earlier in the year, there's a good chance your boss has either forgotten about it or thinks it happened last year. So get a copy of the review form. Then write your boss a memo or email detailing all your accomplishments, laid out in a way so those accomplishments can easily be included in your review.

2. Start Early

If you send that memo a few weeks before your annual review is due, it won't make much difference. And it isn't that your boss has already written the review. Unless your company has a corporate culture that places great value on the review process, many bosses start to write the review on the day it's due. However, what you will get as a raise and, hence, the ratings you will get on the review, were determined months earlier when budgets were prepared.

To be able to influence the outcome, you have to take action well ahead of review time. Your boss needs to hear about every success all year long and in a way that does not appear to be bragging. One way to do that successfully is to develop the type of relationship that allows you to simply call up or drop by whenever something good happens and tell your boss. Get in the habit of finding reasons to talk to your boss and to meet with him casually. Have coffee once a week or drop by his office to personally give your boss something he needs.

Another good way to let everyone know what a good job you are doing, without appearing to be bragging, is to send a memo or email to key people, including your boss, praising your subordinates for a job well done. You will not only get credit for what has been accomplished, but you will be considered a good manager, because you are sharing credit with the people who work for you.

3. Demonstrate Why Your Situation Is Different

Keep in mind that there is almost always a limited budget for raises. If your boss wants to give you a big raise, he has to either give less to others or seek special approval. Neither of those are things your boss will want to do. So you have to let your boss know that yours is a special case, and you expect a better raise than most of your fellow employees. Start by making sure you do a good job throughout the year. That means making your boss look good. Align your priorities with those of your boss.

Take every opportunity to differentiate yourself from your peers. Learn new skills. Take on additional responsibilities. Once you have demonstrated you have mastered those new responsibilities and are delivering results, you can let your boss know you expect to be compensated differently as a result.

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