Everyone can benefit from a career portfolio.
A career portfolio is a sampling of your work, your achievements, your failures, your goals, and past performance evaluations.
Work samples you might keep in your portfolio include: reports, spreadsheets, slide presentations, results of team projects – whatever best highlights your role and skill set.
Documenting work successes and failures, especially those that speak directly into the goals set by you and your manager for annual performance evaluations, helps you personally develop and illustrates growth for both you and your manager to see.
Example of success: an email where someone recognizes your efforts, thanks you for the completion of an assignment, or acknowledges your strong team contribution.
Example of failure: an email that expresses disappointment for an assignment not completed on time or to the level expected + your response to it. This is not a defensive response, but a positive action response. Did it change one of your work processes? Did you learn a valuable lesson?
The point is not to call attention to your shortcomings, but to track growth that resulted from the shortcomings. Acknowledging these better prepares you for the conversation with your supervisor and keeps you from being caught off guard if he/she raises the issue.
Writing down your achievements and failures, your goals and lessons learned helps you track things and be better prepared for performance evaluations.
Then together, you and your supervisor can develop strategies for how you’ll perform stronger next time. Ask for advice. “Tell me how I can do better with this next time.” Employees receptive to learning are refreshing, and they lift burdens off their supervisors’ shoulders.
It's a great strategy to go into the final stages of a job interview with a 90-day plan.
Portfolios and performance evaluations go hand-in-hand.
Keeping a portfolio will not only empower you for strong performance evaluations, it will set you on a more successful career course.
You may want to create an electronic portfolio in place of, or in addition to, a physical one. An electronic portfolio (a robust LinkedIn profile with sample attachments or a personal website) can be a powerful tool in the job search process, giving potential employers easy access to your career achievements and samples of your work.
Many performance evaluations don’t live up to their potential. They are often treated only as a checkmark to satisfy HR requirements, or they are a power trip for the manager who seems to enjoy making you squirm.
Cy Wakeman says in her book, The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace, that both employers and employees contribute to corrupt performance evaluations.
Managers contribute when they deliver feedback poorly or dishonestly; employees contribute when they receive it poorly and refuse to be honest with themselves about their true performance and worth to the organization.
David Cottrell writes in his book, Monday Morning Mentoring, that there are three kinds of performers in every organization: super stars (30%), middle stars (50%), and falling stars (20%).
A good manager does not adjust for and accommodate the lowest performers to make it look like they belong in the middle. They raise the top by rewarding and recognizing the true star performers. This is the truest and most efficient way to motivate everyone to higher performance levels.
As to pay and compensation, you owe it to yourself to research average pay (try payscale.com) prior to any conversations about compensation, whether at the time of hire or during performance evaluations. Most salaries are negotiable and fall within a range. The more they want you, the more leverage you have.
One should never ask for a raise based on personal financial needs or cost of living increases. Wakeman says compensation should be based “on the value you add, not the needs you have.” So arm your portfolio with examples of specific ways you add value when broaching the subject of a raise.
One type of performance evaluation is a 360. Rather than relying only on feedback from the manager and an employee’s self-evaluation, this type of review includes feedback from a variety of other sources (peers, subordinates, superiors, external clients, internal colleagues, etc.). A 360 can offer a more complete picture of your overall performance, but it is also a time-consuming review process that only large organizations may have the resources to conduct on an annual basis.
Good organizations and good managers use performance evaluations as true growth opportunities. Performance evaluations are only beneficial, however, if both parties come to them wanting them to be a growth opportunity.
If you find yourself in an organization that doesn’t have performance evaluations or that doesn’t do them justice, find a mentor and ask for personal performance evaluations…no HR checkmarks and no power trips…just you wanting to grow and learn from someone you respect.
A good performance evaluation is a discussion of 4 things:
The goals you set for yourself last time
Whether you met these goals
What you learned
What your new goals are going forward
A good manager or mentor applauds you for your achievements, helps deepen the lessons gained from the pursuit of your goals (whether you actually reached them all or not), helps you discover your own strengths and weaknesses and strategies for improvement, and gives you stretch assignments, pointing you toward appropriate new goals.
What do you do if you find yourself in an organization that doesn’t have standard performance evaluations? Ask for one.
If you’ve been with a company long enough and have performed well enough that you feel ready for a promotion and/or pay increase, you can write a letter outlining your request. Be direct about what you’re asking for in the opening then follow with strong evidence and support of your request.
Be specific about your achievements. It’s not a strong evidence statement to say, “I’ve worked hard; therefore, I deserve…”
Wakeman says many of us “confuse efforts with results. Your organization gets no return on investment for effort.”
It is a stronger evidence statement to say, “Sales increased 15% after the social media marketing campaign I created was implemented.” Measurable, quantifiable achievements, especially those that increase revenue for an organization, are most effective.
The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace is a great resource in preparing for performance evaluations. The subtitle of the book is “Know what boosts your value, kills your chances, and will make you happier.”
Wakeman says you have to know what your real value is in the workplace.
Your Value = Current Performance + Future Potential – 3x Emotional Expensiveness
Some employees (maybe you) are emotionally expensive to work with and may not realize it. Some have an inflated sense of their current performance and future potential to an organization.
If your career seems to have stalled and you’re not progressing at the rate you think you should, an investment in Wakeman’s book and a good, hard look in the mirror might get you moving again.
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