Employees in companies around the world have just let out a collective breath – most performance review periods are over. This can be a particularly stress-filled time of the year, but it can also bring new opportunities for change.

Even if your job appraisal was quick and easy, there is still a good amount of work associated with the review period to get the most out of it. Employees and managers look back at an entire year’s worth of work, and set goals for the future, defining work for the year ahead.

Here are some tips on how to take the feedback you’ve been given, how to set career goals for the next year and how to ensure that next year’s performance appraisal goes even better than this one.

Embrace the feedback

As humans, when receiving feedback, we tend to react defensively. Even the most even-keeled employee might need to be reminded to embrace the feedback from a performance review, accept it and take what you can from it. When hearing feedback, remember your own blind spots – an external view might just have a point.

If you’ve gotten an overall positive review

Good job! Go enjoy that bonus, but then come back and go over what actions you should continue. Review what got you to this point in the first place and make plans to continue the work that did well. Then, take it a step further – map out what can you do in this upcoming year to go above and beyond in your current position.

If you’ve gotten a negative review at work

Negative feedback is always tough to hear. Warranted or not, no one really likes to hear negative comments about performance or behavior. With that said, good things can still come out of a less than ideal review. Attempt to accept the feedback objectively and review your own actions and performance.

If you find that you agree with that feedback after looking at it honestly, all is not immediately lost. It can be a good time to recommit to your work, evaluate why you are doing what you’re doing and ask yourself what factors were out of your control to contribute to that performance and what factors can be controlled. In many ways, your own mindset can determine how well you fulfill your potential – negative reviews can help you snap out of it and try to reset your way of thinking.  

If you were aiming for a raise or promotion, but did not get it, reevaluate what you can do between right now and the next review period. It may be just a matter of asking a question of your manager: what can I do to attain my goals (for a promotion, raise, or simply better review) for next year?

Five actions to take after the appraisal

1. Ask questions. If there was anything that becomes unclear the more you think about it, reach out for clarification. Review any notes you took and then approach your manager to ask for more details about ambiguous points. Good managers will be willing to sit down with you again to clarify. If you are met with resistance, maybe it’s time to evaluate whether or not you’re in a toxic work environment, and what you can do about it.

2. Seek out feedback throughout the year. If you were surprised by anything in the performance review (positive or negative) consider asking for feedback more often throughout the year. In many work environments, there isn’t the time or framework for continuous feedback. However, asking for an informal job appraisal can ensure you are on the right track. Good moments to ask for this feedback include at the launch of a project, at the conclusion of a campaign or series of activities, mid-year or after major setbacks or negative input from a manager or stakeholders.

3. Look for your development areas. Rarely will any employee at any level get a 5- star review across the board. Even if you’ve shined from day one, there will always be something to improve on. Take a deep dive into those career development areas. Seek out external learning or training opportunities to give you reinforcements for the year.

4. Prepare for next year’s appraisal review now by starting and updating a running list of accomplishments throughout the year. Some of your best work may have been done months before the appraisal, so write down your accomplishments as they happen, keeping detailed notes of results and why it was great work.  

5. Set goals that are in line with your measures of success for the upcoming year. How should you set those goals? Read on.

How to set the right goals and KPIs

Identify your main responsibilities.

What is your central role within the team? What areas and objective do you own? If you are unclear on any of those, it’s time to sit down with a manager and map it out to know exactly what falls under your umbrella.  

Find what success means in each of those areas.

What will a successful year look like? Knowing what success will look like beforehand gives you a clear target to aim for.

Find ways to measure goals

How can you quantify the goals and truly measure them? Discover key metrics that will showcase success, or refine existing metrics to better suit your position.

When in doubt, refer to the SMART criteria for goal setting in the workplace, make sure your goals are:

  • Smart
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Above all, look forward, not back

Performance reviews and appraisals can be a catalyst for change if you’ve been feeling as if you’re stuck in a rut. They can be a wake-up call for a change of company or career path. Or they can be a much-needed time to acknowledge all that you have done in the previous year.

Getting immersed in the day to day tasks at any job, it can be hard to keep a high-level perspective on work done. So take a step back, breathe and look at all you have accomplished in the last year – and what potential there is for the year ahead.

Now, if a good review has you ready to negotiate a pay rise, here are some tips on negotiating for a higher salary.

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