The dreaded self-review. Most of us don’t look forward to this annual task, and with good reason. Culturally, we aren’t used to talking about ourselves, and the line between arrogance and selling yourself short can feel awfully thin.

However, with the right attitude and approach, you can turn writing your self-review into a rewarding, productive experience. Try these tips that help successful people write their self-reviews.

Take Notes All Year Long

Often the scariest part of a self-review is facing a blank page. (Let’s face it: That’s the scariest part of writing anything, period.) Reviewing your work product and professional growth becomes a lot easier if you’ve been documenting your experiences as you go. Keep a private document or file folder in which you record:

  •  Positive feedback from supervisors and coworkers.
  • Reflections on both challenges and successes.
  • Samples of your work product.
  • Documentation from training and certification courses.
  • Ideas for future professional development.

Be sure to jot down notes throughout the year regarding your work experiences. Once a project is complete, it’s easy to move on to the next task and mentally file the lessons you’ve learned. You’ll be glad come review time if you pause for a few moments to record your thoughts.

Understand The Purpose Of Your Self-Review

Before you begin working on your self-evaluation, make sure you have a clear understanding of how your company will use the information. Will your manager refer to it when completing his or her evaluation of you? Is the objective to help you set professional goals and establish strategies for meeting them? It’s critical to learn the answers to these questions so you can write your review appropriately.

Take Your Self-Evaluation Seriously

Your self-evaluation isn’t a formality to take lightly. You’ll gain more from the experience if you take it seriously. Consider completely your self-review a form of self-care: It’s a legitimate opportunity to focus on your professional growth and fulfillment. Set aside adequate quiet time to complete the assessment. You might want to visit a coffee shop on the weekend to work on it so you can give the exercise proper attention. Don’t wait until the day before it’s due to begin the process.

Be Honest About Your Performance—Both Good And Bad

Your self-review is the ideal time to remind your manager of your successes from the past year and the many ways in which you contribute to the team. Don’t be shy about listing your accomplishments. If there’s any time when it’s appropriate to toot your own horn, it’s when writing a self-evaluation.

Similarly, don’t shy away from covering those less-than-stellar moments, either. Keep your discussion of such experiences positive and explain the lessons you’ve learned. This type of reflection shows a level of maturity and vulnerability—and also gives you a chance to drive the message around such trouble spots. With the right amount of reflection, a mistake becomes a valuable learning experience.

Hold Yourself Accountable

Your self-evaluation isn’t the time to point fingers at lackluster coworkers or blame your shortcomings on a lack of resources. Stay focused on your performance and your contributions, and accept responsibility for instances in which you’ve struggled.

Include Supporting Evidence And Colleague Feedback

If appropriate, offer examples of positive feedback you’ve received from coworkers, clients, and industry partners. This can be particularly helpful if your self-evaluation is tied to an overall performance review and you know your manager respects the individuals providing the outside feedback.

Stay Forward-Focused

As you complete each section of your self-review, tie it to your future improved performance. “What have you done for me lately?” is the name of the game at work, and, consciously or unconsciously, managers want to know how you’ll make them look good in the year to come. Be sure to focus on projects you want to complete in the upcoming year, and outline the professional development you’d like to undertake, even if you are not specifically asked to do so.

Prioritize Your Professional Growth

No matter how your company plans to use your self-evaluation, make the most of this time for reflection. We’re all so busy it can feel indulgent to spend any time thinking about ourselves. Your self-review is the one time when you’re required to. Use this opportunity to think about your professional growth in the long term, not just within your current position.

As part of the process, ask yourself whether your current job is moving you toward your ultimate goals. If it’s not, perhaps it’s time to start looking for your next opportunity.

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