3 Questions to Ask During a Performance Review to Advance Your Career

by Sharon Elber

Performance Review

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

Although many managers and employees alike dread annual or semiannual performance reviews, they are actually a great opportunity to find out what you need to do in order to advance your career.

While being able to take constructive feedback during your review and translating it into action over the next review period is critical to professional development, asking the right questions during your performance review is important as well.

Carefully preparing thoughtful questions in advance of your meeting may go a long way to help you negotiate a raise or promotion from a position of strength. Asking the right questions also shows that you have serious ambitions to move up and are prepared to go the extra mile to get there. And, by getting some clear and actionable guidance from your supervisor on how you can best advance your career, you can go into your next review with an even stronger argument for a promotion.

#1: How Can I Improve to Be Ready for the Next Step in My Career Path with This Company?

Chances are your manager is coming to the performance review with a clear sense of your strengths and weaknesses in your current role. And certainly, you need to make sure you have a clear set of goals to work on for the coming review period to excel in your current position. But that is kind of obvious right?

This question goes a little further. It is not just about what you can do better in your current role. Framing the question this way lets your supervisor know you have your sights on moving beyond your current role and you want to know how to invest your energy to continue to develop professionally.

This might not be the best question if you are new in your current role. However, if you have at least a year under your belt in your current job, and you are already doing well with your current responsibilities, there is a good chance you could get stuck if you don’t push yourself and let your supervisor know that you are ready to take action to further your career.

It also lays the groundwork for future advancement by committing your supervisor to laying out a known path to advancement. This means you are laying a foundation for the next performance review and strengthening your bargaining position for a raise or a promotion – as long as you make progress on the suggestions made.

While this question is framed in a somewhat generic way, make sure you get some clear answers, and if need be, prepare some follow up questions on this theme to get more specific guidance. Examples might include:

  • What certification, degrees, or licenses could I earn in order to take my career to the next level with this company? Is there any budget to help me cover the costs of this training?
  • Can you identify a specific project that I can work on during the next review period that would enable me to pick up some additional skills to add more value to the team?
  • What specific skills do I need to develop in order to advance with this company? Can you identify a team member that I could work with to learn these valuable skills?
  • I am eager to take my career to the next level. Are there any opportunities or resources to help me learn and grow as a professional so that I can add even more value to this company in a leadership position?

#2: What Direction Do You See the Company Moving in the Future and How Can I Best Serve Evolving Needs?

One of the best ways to turn your typical performance review question into one that will showcase your desire to move up is to draw on your manager’s knowledge of emergent needs and show that you want to be a dynamic employee ready to meet new challenges.

Of course, you need to get a sense for where you can improve now and make sure not to dismiss those concerns by being too forward looking. However, if your performance review was strong, and you sense the moment may be right, this kind of question can make sure your manager sees you as someone who is eager, willing, and ready to advance as new needs arise.

Again, the more specifics you can get the better. Follow up questions along this line of questioning might include:

  • Given the rapidly shifting technology in our industry, what technical skills do you see being most in demand in the next 2-5 years that I can work on sharpening?
  • From where you sit, what do you think is coming down the pike in terms of the changing needs in our industry and how can I be part of the solution?
  • Do you envision structural changes in our company or in this department over the next few years, and if so, how can I make sure that I am most equipped to help you meet those changes for a smooth transition?

#3: What Can I Do to Make Your Job Easier That Would Allow Me to Pick Up Some New Skills?

If you are not really in a position to be asking for a promotion, but still want to show that you are career minded, this is a question that you may want to consider asking your boss in your next annual review.

Taking on additional responsibilities in your current role is one of the most traditional ways to secure career advancement. It can be a good strategy when the economy is slow and promotions from within are few and far between. However, key to doing this right is to also be willing to negotiate additional compensation for additional responsibilities.

Not all additional work translates into career advancement. Critical to making this tactic work is to make sure you add the second part of the question – the part about picking up new skills. If you are just going to get more busy work, then it may not be worth it unless it comes with a raise to match your increase in productivity.

Make the Most of Your Performance Review to Advance in Your Career

We hope this guide has given you some ideas on how to make sure that your supervisor walks away from your annual performance review with an image of you as an employee who has the ambition and drive to advance from within. Hopefully, you now have a clearer idea of the next steps in your professional development that will translate into a promotion or raise if you follow through on that plan with action.

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