How to Write a Great Self-Evaluation That Helps Your Promotion Prospects
Whether this is a promotion year for you or not, being able to write a good self-evaluation is an important art.
But if you’re like most people, you’ll leave it to the last minute. I know I did, thinking that doing my job well was the best way to advance in my career.
Well, I was wrong. And I don’t want you to make the same mistake. Your self-evaluation deserves your attention, and probably sooner than you think.
So how do you write an effective self-evaluation – one that represents you well and helps your case at yearend?
Start by understanding the three important roles your self-evaluation plays
First, it’s an opportunity to demonstrate your value added. The self-evaluation is your chance to remind important people – the ones who decide your pay, promotion and projects – about the high-impact contributions you’ve made. Especially the ones that aren’t so visible, like the way you lead your team or collaborate with colleagues across other units to produce results.
Second, it’s a way to demonstrate self-awareness, which is the mark of a good leader. People reading your yearend package will compare your self-evaluation with what others think of you and look for the degree of alignment or gaps.
Your self-evaluation is a sort of benchmark, an indicator of how aligned your self-view is with how others experience you. As a senior reader of evaluation packages, I was always interested in exploring that gap. Are you overly humble about your accomplishments or do you have an inflated view of yourself?
Third, your self-evaluation demonstrates your communication skills. Being able to express yourself clearly and succinctly in writing differentiates you. It’s a skill that’s valued in leaders but one that’s increasingly rare to find. This is an opportunity for you to stand out.
Now that you understand the important roles your self-evaluation plays, the next step is to know what to include in it.
Focus on the four key elements of your self-evaluation
If your organization has a set format, of course you’ll want to use that. Otherwise, you have the freedom to design it to suit what you want to say.
Either way, here are four areas to consider as you write your self-evaluation.
Who’s your audience?
As you write your self-evaluation, keep your readers in mind. Your audience is likely to be your manager and skip level manager. And if you’re going for a promotion, there could be senior managers in other units involved.
In my case, we had yearend evaluation committees read each person’s package and everyone was put into ranking categories. And there was a special promotion committee made up of senior managers across the firm.
Whether it’s just a couple of people or an entire committee, start by asking yourself:
- What do they care about?
- How does my work contribute to that?
- What do they expect from someone in my role at my level?
What have you accomplished?
Accomplishments are in the eye of the beholder. So, use your answers to the questions about your audience to help you present your accomplishments in the most effective way.
Whether your audience expects you to generate revenues, create new products, manage costs, delight customers or something completely different, the key is to focus on the impact you and your team are making. Not the effort you put in or the step-by-step process you followed (unless your job is about process!).
To help you frame your accomplishments, ask yourself:
- What am I most proud of accomplishing this year?
- What impact has it made for my unit, the organization, our clients, society?
- How can I quantify this or at least describe the qualitative impact?
What have you learned?
The “Peter Principle” says that we all rise to our level of incompetence. So one of the ways to show you haven’t hit that ceiling is to demonstrate that you’re still learning, growing and developing.
As a senior manager, I was always looking for people who could continue to grow. These were the people who got promoted multiple times.
So if your accomplishments show you’re a high performer right now, your growth and development show you have high potential for the future.
- What lessons have I learned this year, whether about the business, about leading people, or about myself?
- What new skills have I developed?
- What new experiences have I pursued and what did I learn from them?
- How did I stretch myself this year and how did that develop me as a leader and team member?
What are your aspirations?
Sharing your career aspirations sets you up for a more meaningful career conversation with your managers. So rather than keeping your self-evaluation as a backward-looking review of what you’ve done in the past year, take the opportunity to add a forward-looking dimension.
This will also indicate to your managers that you’re interested in staying on, which provides an opening to talk about what kind of future they can envision for you at the organization too. Just make sure you’re not overtly saying, “I expect to have your job in 12-18 months’ time” as that can backfire!
- What’s the direction in which I want to grow?
- What new experiences do I want to have or skillsets I want to develop?
- What would I find energizing over the next 2-5 years?
- How might I be able to do that in this organization?
But what if there’s no self-evaluation process in your organization?
Don’t let the lack of a formal process stop you. It’s still worth writing a self-evaluation for yourself. It’s a way to take stock of how far you’ve come and where you want to head in the next 12-18 months.
Once you’ve written your self-evaluation, you can decide whether or when to share it with your managers. It can form the basis for a constructive career conversation where they can share their thoughts and you can craft a plan for the next year together.
Your self-evaluation is an important career opportunity
You owe it to yourself to give it some thought well before the deadline so you can represent yourself well. Use your self-evaluation to demonstrate your impact, self-awareness and communication skills.
As you prepare, remember to consider:
- Who’s your audience? Understand what they care about and frame your self-evaluation to cover those points.
- What have you accomplished? Focus on the impact you and your team have had on the unit, the organization, your clients.
- What have you learned? Consider how you’ve grown and developed as a leader, a manager, and overall.
- What are your aspirations? Communicate how you want to grow in the organization.
Which of these will most help you in writing your self-evaluation?
Leave a comment and let me know.
May – this is one of the most valuable postings on career development I have come across. The section “What have you learned?” – first time I have ever seen that included in guidance for framing your accomplishments! Tying it to the Peter Principle is a brilliant touch. Thanks for adding both the context and the “why” into a very easy to follow framework.
I’m so glad you find this useful, Fred. Indeed, learning is key to success … and also the best way to frame our inevitable mistakes and failures along the way!
Wishing you well in your career.
Another excellent post! Although I am not working for pay, I still find this very helpful! It’s a great way to think of things when you are working, no matter where.
Thanks Ann. I agree this applies to wherever you are working and regardless of whether you’re being paid.
Super piece May!
All makes so much sense and all nicely recorded and listed down here.
I am very sure, this will come handy to many professionals out there.
Thank you very much!
I’m glad this is helpful. I always found self-evaluations so stressful and only now realize it doesn’t have to be that way!
Please feel free to share with others who would find this useful too.
This is a wonderful post. I wonder if the same content you have here could also be used to ask for a salary increase during a time other than year-end reviews?
Thanks, Kelly – and yes, you could definitely adapt this for a salary increase conversation.
A very rare post that is extremely educative and incisive