Sunday, October 5, 2014

How to prepare a professional self-evaluation

Hopefully my initial post relating to “why” has convinced you of the importance of submitting a solid self-evaluation.  In this follow up post, I’m going to focus on how to create a self-evaluation and will start with the basic steps that I use to prepare my self-evaluation.

Step 1:  Identify the standards for the position.  Sources for job standards may be named differently from employer to employer, but common sources are job descriptions, performance plans, and action plans.  In less formal work settings, this may need to be gathered from notes and assignments.

Step 2:  Create some high level headers and elements.  Remember doing those dreaded outlines with Roman numerals in school?  Look on the bright side; you don’t have to use Roman numerals!

Step 3:  Fill in supporting data.  This involves identification of specific accomplishments that demonstrate that you meet and (preferably) exceeded the requirements for your position.  In many office based positions, there are now rich resources that can be tapped to supply this information.  Yes, all that e-mail can be made to be useful.  (Tip:  What I do is create a folder and dump messages documenting noteworthy accomplishments into the folder throughout the year).  Other sources may include calendars, notes, and saved documents, etc.

Step 4:  Fluff and polish.  This includes wordsmithing your self-evaluation.  If you have access to a trusted colleague, a second set of eyes may be valuable.  (Caution:  I tend to avoid colleagues on my immediate, same supervisor team.  First off, they are not objective and secondly, while hopefully you are not locked in mortal combat, they are likely your competition.)

In writing your self-assessment, be conscientious of your style.  Below are some of the styles that are to be avoided:

Fantasy:  These self-assessments appear grandiose and are often unbelievable.  For instance, an employee may write how their efforts single handedly saved the company a ridiculous amount of money.  If that be true, it better be clearly supported.  Not only will readers roll their eyes while reading these inflated assessments, they are also likely to encounter objection from the supervisor.  This can backfire so that you not only stand out as a questionable employee, but also potentially a liar.

Self-Degradation:  I've said it before and I’ll say it again, take your low self-esteem issues to your therapist; do not create a laundry list of shortcomings on your self-evaluation!

The Kitchen Sink:  These writers may or may not also include elements of fantasy, but their hallmark is that they incessantly regurgitate the mundane.  These self-evaluations may include every boring meeting ever attended, who said what to who that no longer matters and may needlessly re-hash skills that would be clearly obvious if they just provided a tangible action as an illustration in its stead.

So what style do I recommend?  I recommend a style that I call the Polished Reality approach.  What this means is that your self-evaluation should magnify your strengths and that failures should also be framed from a perspective of strength (as in “I've learned ABC from XYZ).  Your Polished Reality must be supported by empirical facts.  Below are some general guidelines of what should be included:
  • Anything that supports meeting or exceeding your performance plan or job description.
  • Anything beyond average
  • Anything that you volunteered for or represents taking on duties beyond what is required.
  • Customer recognition / testimonials in moderation.  (No, you shouldn’t itemize everyone who has emailed you, saying “thank you, you’re the best…”)
  • New Training Skills, Awards and Professional Recognition
Writing a great self-evaluation does take effort; however, this effort pays rich dividends.  Don't let a sloppy, ill-conceived self-evaluation speak for a year of hard work.  Invest in yourself!