I don't know anyone who enjoys writing their year-end self-evaluation, myself included. Highlighting my initiatives, successes and failures (aka, areas in need of improvement) makes me uneasy. At the last few places I worked, the form is online and there were five radio buttons ranging from Outstanding to Unsatisfactory. Below that was a text box so I could elaborate.

Filling out this form always felt like something of a gamble. My supervisor was filling out the same form when evaluating me, and if I chose Meets Expectations while he chose Above Expectations, does that mean his threshold is below mine? And who would ever rate themselves unsatisfactory? If you're self-aware enough to know you're unsatisfactory, you should have improved long before this self-evaluation. And if you believe you're unsatisfactory at, say working with others, is that acceptable to you? It doesn't make sense.

I used to agonize over these questions and forestall the torture by waiting until the last minute. Then I'd rush through the form, click submit and hope for the best.

The last straw came when my supervisor said I could be much better at documentation, which I was amazed to hear because I do a great deal of documentation. I enjoy writing and keep a log of what I've done as well as a running document for each project. I said this during the review, but it was too late: I'd had my chance to make my case on the form, and now I was on the defensive.

Today I'm more proactive. Starting with the face-to-face valuation, I write down what I was asked to improve and add it to my daily log. This may seem obvious, but often I've treated the meeting like the self-evaluation, something to hold my breath for until it's over. Now I have something to work from, and the notes keeps me focused on improvement. The first year was easy: Improve documentation.

Keeping Notes

Your log is just a date, some bullets and a basic headlines for the day. When I get a bit of praise, or complete a project, or volunteer, or whatever will look good in my review, I note it with the key word, "Evaluations." When the time comes, I search for that word, and can quickly pull up compliment. All I need to do is cut and paste it into the self-evaluation. This way I'm working backwards. The supporting text comes first and then I can click the radio button with confidence. The log works for me. If you don't use a log, just add notes to your calendar with a common search term so they're easy to find.

I calendar at the first of each month as a reminder to add some entries, just in case I've gotten lax. Even a little note goes a long way toward filling out those text boxes at the end of the year. In the end, your self-evaluation will be thoughtful and represent the work you've done.

We have a tendency to skip over the self-evaluation because our job really isn't on the line. But in today's economic climate, that may not always be true.

-- Dino Londis