It’s the most stress you’ve experienced since you interviewed for the position. Your annual evaluation. Every year, it feels like you have to apply all over again.

And like a job interview, the more you prepare, the more comfortable you will be. Also, the additional consideration and effort you put into getting ready will help you achieve a better outcome.

However, the kind of preparation necessary for a good performance at an annual review differs from the type needed for an interview. When you’re looking for a job, getting ready takes the form of fevered cramming, as you’re forced to get ready for short-notice meetings with strangers.

The annual review requires more a slow burn. You work closely with the people evaluating. And you have much more time to craft the narrative you want to sell.

With that in mind, here are some steps to take to prepare for your annual evaluation:

Make Sure You Responded to Last Year’s Comments

You need to start preparing for your evaluation early, even as early as the moment you leave the previous year’s meeting. Don’t just sweat it out the day before. You’ll need time to review last year’s feedback and build up an impressive portfolio of achievements to laud this year.

Write a List of Accomplishments

Go into your meeting with ammunition. Know exactly what sets you apart from your peers. Be specific. Have dates and statistics. If you beat output quotas, how much did you beat them by? If you volunteered for overtime, how often did you step up?

A year is a long time. It’s easy to forget specifics as time moves on. Keep a running tally all year long so you have it handy when the time comes.

Anticipate Criticism

You’re going to receive some negative feedback. Hopefully, your boss delivers it in a constructive way (not that a constructive delivery always softens the blow), but you can’t go into the meeting expecting a non-stop praise-fest.

Instead, steel yourself for the inevitable, so you can respond calmly and professionally. What’s more, anticipate the specific feedback you might receive. Put yourself in your boss’s position and guess the critiques they might have. That way you can consider possible replies and perhaps craft counter-arguments that will allow you to mitigate the criticisms.

Figure Out Your Goals

The evaluation isn’t just about absorbing punishment and making an argument for yourself as a good worker. It’s also a time to advance your own career goals. Of course, to advance them, you need to know what they are.

Think about how you want your career to develop, both in the near term and over the long haul. Formulate these as articulately as possible and discuss them during your evaluation. There may be steps you can take to acquire skills and steer your duties toward your long-term plan.

Prepare Some Questions

Along the same lines, use the meeting with your manager to ask questions. In the normal course of business, it can be hard to find time to get your boss’s undivided attention. You have it during the evaluation, so use the opportunity accordingly.

Take the Review to Heart

Time to bring the advice full circle. As soon as you walk out of this year’s evaluation, start preparing for next year. Commit to a program to correct any deficiencies your boss pointed out. Also, draw up plans to achieve the goals you want to accomplish by your next review.

Evaluations lose their edge when you have a good relationship with your boss and work in an environment well suited to your skills. A strong recruiting partner, like SmartTalent, can steer you to these ideal situations. Contact SmartTalent today to learn what we can do to jumpstart your career.