Q: It is annual review time, and I am overdue for a promotion. As I do my self-assessment, I wonder about the best way to position my value while I write up my submission. I don’t like to look braggy so am worried that I undersell myself. — Kim, 39, finance analyst
A: Start with a list of contributions you have made over the past year. This may not be as easy as it sounds. For one thing, memories fade, and for another, it sounds like you may tend to underestimate the value you bring.
To get a jump-start, try working backward through your most recent projects. Make a much longer list than you’ll actually share, just to build momentum. Refer to your calendar, looking at meetings you had and people you engaged with.
Then enrich the story of what happened in each situation.
You might start with a simple statement: I completed Analysis X. Go on to explain why this mattered. How did it help someone?
Keep the business perspective front and center. Be sure you know your company’s goals so that you can make statements like, “By completing Analysis X, I enabled the team to reach its goal on one of our company’s key revenue objectives.”
Your statements about your value should lead the reader to conclude that you already are performing at a higher level.
When you write up your self-review, you can use the business perspective and the future-looking perspective to frame your input.
Bring in the voice of your customer. Do you have quotes you could take from thank you emails or other feedback from internal or external clients? Use them sparingly, perhaps only alluding to the direct positive feedback you have received, but be ready to share them in more detail.
Use strong, direct language. Avoid passive phrasing, and employ action verbs that communicate your integral role.
Get feedback on your draft from someone who understands your work. In particular, ask them to point out gaps and push you to courageously own the value you bring.
Once your content is complete, get a good polish on it. If you are given a format, make sure that everything is perfect — no typos or format inconsistencies. This may sound trivial but it sends a message.
If you can create your own format, adopt a layout that you think best represents the value you bring. In fact, you may want to create a one page “Kim’s contributions” document to bring to your actual review.
Prepare for the review itself. Write talking points that provide a brief summary of your year and practice them out loud. This will help you be more fluent when the time comes without being overly rehearsed.
Finally, own it. Remind yourself throughout this process that you are a valuable employee and that you bring your best to your job. Bring a spirit of confidence and joy that will be infused throughout the process.