Surviving Your Performance Review
I feel pretty lucky to have worked in the type of jobs where formal performance reviews are not part of the agenda. When friends of mine complained about their reviews at investment banks or large-scale tech companies, I often failed to display the appropriate amount of empathy because it all seemed so trivial to me from the outside. "We're not in college anymore, so don't let meaningless 'grades' get you down," I'd say. "It's not like you want to be in this job forever—who cares if you don't get the absolute highest marks."
Having spoken to more and more people around review time, I have realized that there's a lot more to it than that. Firstly, it's unavoidably personal—more so than at school, you presumably have a daily relationship with the person responsible for your review, so it can be tough to receive negative feedback from someone you feel you get along with. Secondly, there clearly are practical benefits to a good review—sometimes performance will be directly related to bonuses, raises, and promotions, and even if you aren't planning to stick around at the company for long, it's still important to feel that there are people who truly value your work when it comes time to find references. Finally, no matter how competitive or laid-back you are, the fact of the matter is you spend the majority of your waking hours each week at work. Given the commitment you're putting in, it can be pretty disheartening to hear that your superiors don't think your work is up to snuff.
And so, with annual performance reviews looming in the most distressing economic climate any twentysomething could have feared, I've changed my tune. I feel for you. Now, a poor review could not only leave you feeling a little depressed and pissed off, but it could also leave you jobless. To prepare yourself for the storm, check out the Wall Street Journal's tips for acing your performance review.
Some aspects of your review will be based on projects and deadlines that are now behind you, and there's nothing you can do about that now. But you can take the time to review your original goals and try to finish strong, thus swaying boss away from those bad long-term memories (but of course yours are all good). You may not have any say in what type of review you receive, but if you are given the floor, don't be shy to document your unheralded successes (as long as you're being honest with yourself about the work you put in). Finally, use this signpost as a way to let your supervisors know what your personal goals are and how you feel you can make the most positive impact on the job.
Good luck! I'll be thinking of you...