I’ll never forget my first annual performance review at my first full time job out of undergrad, before starting my masters.
I was regularly putting in over 80 hour workweeks, taking on tons of new responsibilities on top of my regular workload, and getting noticed by my coworkers and clients on my strong work ethic and performance.
I worked well past normal business hours, and on most weekends.
I even postponed my vacation to the next year so I could help my boss out with a critical project.
Why did I do all of this?
I knew I was underpaid. I wanted to do the best job possible so that my boss would notice, and either promote me or give me a raise.
Ha! What wishful thinking.
My boss traveled a lot for work, so he was barely in the office. When he was in the office, he was in meetings all day or busy dealing with clients. We barely had any one-on-one face time.
My Disappointing First Performance Review:
When my boss sat down with me for my first performance review, I thought my chances of a bonus or raise of some type were high.
The performance review lasted about 5 minutes.
I ended up getting feedback of “Nice effort for your first year. You work hard, but you should try to work smarter”. That’s it.
I got no raise, no recognition, and no promotion.
Instead, my boss promoted the guy who sat next to me, copied my work, and browsed Facebook all day.
Plus, this dude was less experienced than me, and was still working on his degree. He legit rolled in at 10 am, took long lunches, and left every day at 4:30 pm on the dot.
I almost quit, I was so furious.
Was my boss a self-serving, incompetent, out-of-touch sexist prick? At the time I would have shouted YES ;o)
In hindsight, I realized I just really sucked at self-promotion. Mr. Facebook, however, excelled at bragging about the little he did.
Where I failed:
The bottom line is I expected my boss to take notice of what I was achieving, instead of realizing it was my job to make sure these achievements were high on his radar.
Here I was, quietly doing the work of 3 people and doing a fantastic job at that. But I shied away from highlighting my achievements in a way that people would actually notice.
I didn’t want to take credit for the project successes, and I never wanted to seem like I was arrogant or bragging about what I accomplished.
It turns out that the feedback from my boss was actually spot on.
I did need to learn how to work smarter.
I spent too much of my time with my head down, doing grunt work, and not nearly enough time highlighting and promoting my strengths and contributions to those with the power to reward me.
There is no substitute for hard work. But on the other hand, hard work is useless if no one even notices or appreciates your accomplishments.
How to Get Recognized & Rewarded For Your Work:
It took me quite a few years to master advocating for myself career-wise, but I finally feel very comfortable in this area.
I’ve been steadily promoted, and I get the raises and bonuses that I deserve. I’m consistently recognized as a top performer, and I understand what I have to do to stand out.
Here are the tips I found most helpful in getting recognized & rewarded at work:
1. Be Visible:
- Get involved at your company. Volunteer for assignments. Join company clubs. Attend company events. Offer to mentor and train new employees. Be social.
- Being visible helps you seem friendly, open and approachable. These are qualities that your company wants to see in a leader, and will also give you chances to let others know about your accomplishments and responsibilities.
- Your goal is to be at the forefront of your boss’ mind, so that when there is an opportunity for advancement, or money in the budget for salary increases, you’ll come to mind.
- I can’t even tell you how much improving my visibility within the company improved my career!
2. Keep Your Boss Informed:
- I used to think my boss already knew what I was working on, the great progress I made, and the challenges I overcame at work.
- I now know that if I wait to highlight my accomplishments till my annual review, all of my achievements will be old news. Plus, I’ll then be competing with everyone else getting reviewed.
- I now schedule a weekly meeting with my boss. I also send a written weekly status report on what I’m working on, and list out all of my achievements for that week.
3. Add Accomplishments to Your Meeting Agenda:
- I started doing this 3 years ago, and I love it! I’m not sure where I read about doing it, but it’s worked great. In my weekly meetings with my boss, I added an “Accomplishments” section to the meeting agenda.
- This guarantees that I spend time in the meeting talking about what has gone really well.
- I usually explain this in the context of the benefit to the company – i.e. progress on a project or initiative, the organizational impact, and then what I specifically did to help make it a success.
- The goal is to keep my boss reminded frequently of the value I add, and my contributions.
4. Focus on the Results:
- In my first role, I could have worked half as hard if I just spent time highlighting the results of my work.
- Don’t bore your boss with a long list of activities you completed throughout the week.
- Your boss wants to know what the impact these activities had on the company. Explain what these tasks mean in the bigger picture to the organization.
5. Voice your opinion in meetings
- Team meetings are a great way to get recognized by your coworkers and bosses. Don’t sit in silence because you worry that your ideas won’t be taken seriously.
- Be brave and speak up! This shows that you are involved and interested in your company. Who knows, your input might be just what the team or your boss needs to hear.
6. Track Your Successes:
- I track my goals for each work project, and check my progress weekly. Laying out my goals ahead of time helps me measure my success better.
- I also track our company’s objectives, our department’s goals, and even my boss’. I write down anything that I specifically do to help contribute to meeting that goal.
- I’ve started keeping a folder on my desktop where I store all the positive feedback from clients, colleagues, my boss, etc.
- As appropriate, I can then weave these positive highlights and accomplishments into my status reports, conversations, and meetings with my boss.
7. Share Your Successes with Your Boss and Team:
- There are ways to let people know about your successes without coming across like you’re bragging.
- When I finish a big project successfully, I make sure to copy my boss in on the email, as well as any team members involved. If you do this though, just make sure you recognize everyone else who contributed!
- Whenever I get positive feedback via email, I also copy my boss in on the message.
- Just remember that when sharing your successes, it’s best to focus on the benefits and impact to the company, because that’s what your boss and team will care about.
8. Ask Your Network to Tell Your Boss How Awesome You Are
- I felt so uncomfortable doing this at first, but it has paid off big time! When I do something great at work and when a customer or coworker thanks me, I now ask them to give feedback to my boss on my performance.
- I simply thank them for recognizing me, and ask them to send my boss a note about my contribution. I’ve never had anyone say no, and the results have been truly fantastic.
9. Remember to Acknowledge your Boss:
- When you sign that big contract or finish that huge project, remember to acknowledge and thank your boss for their overall contribution!
- This is not sucking up, this is building a relationship based on appreciation and respect.
- And appreciating your boss will go a long way in the next round of pay increases and promotions – trust me on this! ;o)
10. Be a Good Team Player:
- Most employers value those that can work well with others. If you work on a team, don’t be that person that never recognizes the hard work and talent of your coworkers.
- Drawing attention to other people’s good work also means that others might do the same for you.
- Communicate to your boss and higher ups what a great team you had, and what was accomplished.
- Just don’t downplay work that you personally did – own the successes you are solely responsible for.
11. Learn to take a Compliment:
- I used to be masterful at deflecting praise. I now realize how this would actually reduce my chances of being recognized or thanked in the future.
- Instead of shrugging off compliments, I try to accept and appreciate kind words when given.
12. Use Social Media and LinkedIn Wisely:
- I’m not the kind of person to brag on social media about my successes, but I realize now that it can be a great way to keep my network updated.
- If you have a big success at work, when appropriate, let your network know!
- To help you come across less like you’re bragging, celebrate your success in terms of what it means to your company, career, and personal/professional growth.
What tips do you have on making sure your accomplishments get seen at work? I love hearing how people do this!