At many companies year end reviews actually happen well into the following year, making them yearendplus3months reviews. Regardless of when the review takes place, YOU must take advantage of the conversation. It provides a forum for you to ask your boss specific questions and get detailed answers on what it takes to move up in the organization, or achieve specific steps you desire in your career. Because many managers do not have these conversations with you throughout the year, you must seize this opportunity.
Driving for specificity is so important because it enables you to hold yourself and your boss accountable. It removes opinion and helps you be aligned with your boss (and usually ensures that he or she is getting alignment up the chain as well). But it is hard to do that if you wait until yearendplus3monthsatleast review time. You will simply forget accomplishments, goals, relationships, etc. that you have forged throughout the year -- it is simply too much to remember.
That is why you must start preparing for your 2016 review now. Create an email folder that can store co-worker emails that praise your work. In addition, create a document folder called 2016 Review on your computer and store documents, data, and other examples of your accomplishments that will help you tell your story.
By matching these documents, notes, and emails against the areas that were outlined in your review discussion, you will have a fact-based, example-rich conversation with your boss. You will enjoy not having to remember what happened on the "Penske project in June" and your boss should certainly appreciate the details and passion you bring to the career discussion.