Admins: Want More from Performance Reviews? Be Proactive.

A performance evaluation is an opportunity to set the course for a successful year. The more effort you put into preparing, the more satisfying the results can be.

A performance evaluation is a two-way conversation. The better you prepare, the more productive it can be. A recent Staples InsidersNetwork poll suggests that for many administrative professionals, reviews may be a missed opportunity: Just 18 percent of those surveyed called their company’s review process truly effective.

You may not be able to radically change your company’s process, but you could benefit from taking a more proactive approach. Try these six steps for a more constructive evaluation.

Know Your Objective

Whether you want new responsibilities, more clearly defined responsibilities or a bump in salary, having a clear goal will help you to shape the conversation and know how to prepare for it. For example, if you’d like to take the lead on a major customer event or have a greater role in purchasing, be prepared to explain what makes you qualified and what it could mean for the rest of your team. If you want a raise, research market salaries for your role, and list your accomplishments to prepare a solid justification.

Review Last Year’s Review

Your boss may refer to this to gauge your progress, so be sure to do the same. As you look it over, ask yourself: Have I achieved the goals outlined last year? If not, what has slowed me down? Pay attention to any areas identified as needing improvement. What have you done to remedy those? If there are factors that have hindered your progress, jot them down so that you can address them during this year’s review.

Help Your Boss Prepare

Give your manager ample time to prepare for the conversation by putting together a brief list of topics you would like to discuss. Aim to send the list to your boss at least a week before you meet, and check in shortly before the review to be sure they’ve had a chance to read it. Taking this step could ultimately help you achieve your goals faster. If you’re hoping your company will pay for an administrative certification, for instance, raising this in advance could lead to an answer during the review.

Rehearse the Uncomfortable

A one-on-one conversation can be a good opportunity to clear up misunderstandings or address any trouble spots. For example, if you suspect your boss wasn’t pleased with some aspect of your performance, proactively bringing this up could help you improve in the future while showing your professionalism. Also use your review to float ideas that could make your job easier. For example, if last-minute changes to meeting agenda items leave you scrambling to make updates, consider suggesting a cutoff time for submitting new items or changes, and ask your boss to back you up.

Ask About Your Manager’s Priorities

Get a sense of what will be important to your manager and your department going forward, and find out how you can contribute toward meeting those goals. Showing a sincere interest in helping your boss succeed — and following through — will raise your value as an employee. Suggest regular check-ins if you don’t already have them. That will help you to stay on track and in sync with your manager.

Take the Long View

Approach your meeting with your boss as an opportunity to position yourself for career growth, whether or not it’s with your company. Maybe expanding your responsibilities or having certain training could help you both advance in your current role and open up opportunities later on. While you want to show your loyalty to the company and contribute to its success, remember that it is ultimately up to you to advocate for your career.

Along with helping you set and achieve your goals, thoughtful preparation for a performance review will show your boss that you are ready to take on new challenges. Keep notes on your progress throughout the coming months to simplify the preparation process the next time around.