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Giving Yourself An Annual Review: Questions That Can Shape Your New Year | Career Angles

By Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Originally Published on

Employers often give their staff members reviews annually to assess where each employee is now versus where they should be. I’m not a big fan of annual reviews. Too many managers use them in a punitive way rather than put in the effort to correct, encourage and inspire during the course of the year. But why can’t you give yourself an annual review? Why can’t you critique your own performance vis-à-vis your values and ambitions, personally and professionally?

When I work with individuals to help them evaluate themselves, I ask them these questions as part of their self-assessment.

Who are you?

I don’t mean your job title or role that you play. What is your essence? What kind of person are you? How do you define yourself and your character?

Answering this question will ground you and bring you back from the frenzy you may be living and working with or the apathy that you are languishing in. What is the crux of who you are?

What do you want to be when you grow up, and who are you trying to prove this to?

So many people who have set their aspirations are trying to prove something to someone from their past or are trying to dispel some belief system that they’ve taken on from elsewhere and, in doing that, have formulated aspirations to prove someone wrong rather than do something they really want to do.

Taking a few minutes to go back in time and remember how you stepped into this career and why goes a long way toward seeing whether you’re in alignment with who you are and whether your goals are yours or someone else’s.

Do you know how to get from here to there?

Too often, I speak with people who have no idea of how to develop their careers in ways that serve their aspirations. In attempting to figure it out as they go along, they lose valuable time to do-it-yourself career management, rather than speaking with people who are already where they want to get to and asking them for advice. Why is it necessary for you to figure it out on your own when there are so many people in your life and in the world who are willing to help you and answer your questions? You don’t have to make it harder on yourself when the answers are available.

I remember coaching someone who was so off-base with what she believed was necessary to achieve her goals that all she could ask after listening to someone was, “Really? That’s I have to do? It’s that easy?” Once she had taken the mythology out of her aspirations and learned how easy it was to take the next big step, she was able to do it within 18 months. That can be you.

What’s most important to you in your (next) job or organization?

What do you need to see, hear or feel to believe you’re in the right situation? With this question, you’re starting to examine your current situation and evaluate it based upon who you are and where you want to get to. Is your current role in alignment with who you are and who you want to become?

For someone I coach, he has been challenged by working at a firm that aspires to be No. 2 in its category. He’s always been with the No. 1 firm, and it makes him crazy that his current company’s highest aspiration is to be No. 2. “They are always afraid to challenge No. 1,” he said. “When I joined, I was led to believe that they wanted to become No. 1 in the space.” Clearly, there is a cultural disconnect for him, and although you would think he could be a standout (and he is), the cultural complexity weighs on him regularly.

Make as long of a list as you can describing who you are and who you want to become. Once you have a lengthy list, at least 25 items, identify the top 10, and then prioritize them in numerical order. This list will help you determine whether your current firm or the next firm can support you in achieving your aspirations. It’s so important to face this rather than hiding from it. You can use this particular exercise to evaluate any organization in the context of who you want to become and what your goals are.

What’s the next step?

What do you do between now and a week from now to move the needle forward and get into better alignment? Is it scheduling an informational interview with someone? Is it going online to look at different degree programs to correct the deficiency in your background that stands between you and moving forward? Is it a meeting with your internal mentor to get advice and counsel?

Each of these steps can be done to support you in your goals. A coach can support you with each step. So can your husband, wife, partner, friend, mentor … anyone who has your trust.

Please remember that you can course-correct at any time as you learn more. It’s just so important to engage in this process regularly. After all, don’t all great athletes do that once they see what their opponent is doing? There’s no rule against making a change once you learn more. As a matter of fact, it’s smart.

Giving yourself the gift of a review will help you align and balance yourself, plus provide you with a target and a process for moving forward. Be a friend and encourage others to do it, too.



Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1600 episodes and his newest show, “No BS Coaching Advice” and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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