Self-assessments can be a powerful force for good in our careers says Marie Herman
While many administrative professionals are accomplished, talented individuals, there is an area where many of them seem to struggle: writing their own self assessments and creating goals in preparation for a performance review.
Why do we struggle with something that could benefit us so greatly? Part of the reason may be that we don’t know where to start or what to include. Many administrative professionals wish to stay out of the limelight. We are there to make our bosses look good, not to blow our own horn. But your self-assessment is exactly the time to pull out the trombone, if not the entire brass band!
Why do companies use self-assessments?
Companies use self-assessments as a tool to help identify issues. If there is a serious disconnect between how you think you do your job and how your boss thinks you do your job, a self-assessment can give you an opportunity to state your cause.
Self-assessments allow you to consider your performance during the year. Where did you really excel? What areas could you improve on? (See my article in the May 2017 issue of Executive Secretary magazine for ideas on how to do your own Personal SWOT Analysis to learn more about this part of the process.) This process encourages an open dialogue between you and your executive.
They also ensure your manager is aware of everything you do and everything you think they should know. I’m reminded of the classic television comedy arguments between husband and wife where the husband would ask “What’s wrong?” and the wife would reply “Well if you don’t know, I’m certainly not going to tell you!” Do you expect your boss to remember all your accomplishments of the past year? How many employees report to your boss? Can YOU remember all the accomplishments of the past year yourself without going back through your calendar or old to do lists to remember things? Expecting our bosses to remember things about us is egotistical on our part. Self-assessments are an opportunity to ensure that the boss is brought up to speed on your activities.
How self-assessments benefit you
Self-assessments can be used to develop a case for a promotion or raise. Comparing your self-assessment of what you actually did to your job description of what you were originally hired to do in that position often illustrates that your responsibilities have changed sufficiently to merit revisiting your title or salary.
In addition, honest self-assessments can give you ammunition for requesting training in areas where you feel you could improve or in relinquishing responsibilities in areas where you feel you just don’t have the time to do the best job possible. As a result, they can enhance your career by supporting a transition in your job to areas that will challenge you in more interesting ways.
Finally, a self-assessment can help you to recognize when you are in a rut. If you can just change the date on the last few years’ self-assessments, but don’t need to make any other changes to the text, you might be a stagnant employee caught in a dead-end job (unless you are fortunate enough to love your job exactly the way it is).
Qualities of your self-assessments
The main goal of any self-assessment is for you to highlight for your company where you excelled and what you accomplished. The document should be honest and professional, with a clear detailing of accomplishments and justification/explanation of items that were not accomplished. It should be concise and focused on creating your best image and laying the groundwork for things you want to happen in the future.
It should include specific examples of what you did, particularly stressing areas where you went above and beyond. Try to tie your accomplishments to corporate goals and values.
How to write one effectively
It is easiest to create a self-assessment if you keep some type of documentation of what you accomplish during the year. However, if you don’t have a log of that nature, you can recreate a summary of much of what you accomplished by reviewing these areas:
1. Your calendar
What meetings did you attend? What committees or projects were you involved in? What results came about from your involvement in those committees or projects? Be particularly mindful of things that take place seasonally, which you might not think of during the rest of the year (like overseeing the summer student program or planning a holiday party or Administrative Professionals Week seminar).
2. Scan your emails and inbox folders for categories of things you were involved in
This might include events that you organized, and problems you addressed. Are you the go to for fixing computer issues? Conference room technology glitches?
3. Review your network folder for documents you have created
4. Include personal activities that impact you professionally
Did you serve in a role in a professional association? Attend a class like first aid or CPR?
5. What education or certifications did you get in the last year?
6. Have you picked up any new responsibilities?
7. Have you made any suggestions for improvements or spearheaded any changes?
Have you streamlined a process? Organized something substantial?
If you are not really getting much information from reviewing the calendar, emails, and computer drives, you may need to keep a time log to identify how you spend your days. Print out a table showing your work week with your work days broken out into 15 minute increments. Write down everything you do during those 15 minute timeslots. After a week or two, you should be able to identify where you spend your time.
One of the areas where admins struggle is that rather than our jobs being composed of two or three big projects, we instead may have a million 5-minute tasks. That makes it difficult to list what we did without sounding like we are getting into petty and ridiculous levels of detail. The key to work around that issue is to summarize the tasks into categories.
Look at broad categories first (meeting planning, calendar maintenance, travel arrangement, equipment maintenance, timekeeping, purchasing, creating sales presentations, spreadsheet or database maintenance, etc.). Then break out large individual projects separately, such as committees served or larger events organized. If you chaired any committees, be sure to include the management responsibilities you filled.
If you have a list of goals you were assigned or agreed to from the prior year, be sure to address each of those goals in your self-assessment. List your progress made, any challenges overcome and an overall assessment of how you feel you did. If you didn’t do the task as well as you could or should have, acknowledge that fact and explain why that was the case and how you would change it going forward or how it should be done in the future.
Here’s an example of a general overview of a job:
My primary responsibility has been to provide administrative support to the Chief Executive Officer and board. This includes scheduling calendars for the staff, overseeing the timecard input process, travel arrangements, expense reports, correspondence, report preparation, supply ordering, filing, proofreading, organization chart updating, maintaining the division website, coordinating reports issued by co-workers, etc.
Here’s a few examples of sample accomplishments
Showing support of a team or committee:
I provided administrative support to the hiring committee including coordinating distribution of the résumés, maintaining a spreadsheet of candidates, organizing video and live interviews, making travel arrangements, issuing correspondence, gathering interview evaluations, and submitting the request for offer to a candidate to our human resources department. This year we had four positions filled with a total of 89 resumes reviewed and 24 candidates interviewed. I performed my responsibilities in a timely fashion and ensured the process went smoothly.
Being a member of a committee implementing a project:
I oversaw the migration of timekeeping software for the company, including attending training on the process, testing the software prior to roll out, providing training to others on how to use the new software, and addressing issues as they arose during the implementation. The rollout was on time and on budget, with minimal disruption to the company. Alternatively, if it didn’t go well, something along the lines of “While we experienced some issues in the rollout, the committee worked diligently to address and correct them in a timely manner.”
A “small” part of our job that is actually a million tasks individually and time consuming overall:
During this past year, I ensured that our copiers and printers were functioning properly and stocked with supplies as needed. This included ordering supplies in advance, maintaining an inventory of spare parts, restocking paper and toner as needed, assisting individuals with training, troubleshooting issues with the copier (paper jams, etc.), monitoring the usage of the machine, placing service calls when required and other related tasks.
A “standard” admin responsibility, such as travel planning:
I was responsible for arranging all domestic and international travel required by my seven co-workers. This included getting all necessary trip details from the travelers, contacting our travel agency, coordinating ground transportation such as limousines and rental cars, airline flights, and hotels. In addition, I ensured any necessary paperwork was completed in advance, including registration forms, background checks, meeting itineraries, passport and visa documentation and other related items.
How self-assessments tie into goals
So how does a good self-assessment tie into creating goals for yourself? It’s an opportunity to move your career in a direction you want it to go and strengthen your skills.
Many people fear highlighting any weaknesses in a self-assessment, but this is a short-sighted view. No one is perfect. We all have flaws, but flaws on a self-assessment can be made into opportunities to request training and development. The key is the approach that you take.
Don’t point out weaknesses that you have no control over or that you have no intention of fixing. That would be counterproductive.
Do point out a “weakness” (or suggestion) that is really an opportunity to get desired training or acquire skills. Frame it in a way that shows it is good for the company, not just good for you. Will it save time? Money? Consolidate workflow? Your goal is to make yourself a more valuable employee.
There are a few ways to approach this:
Highlight training needed:
An example would be to point out that you could use training in making custom reports in a newly rolled out software, which could save a substantial amount of time over the current reporting process your company is using.
Move into management:
A thorough self-assessment combined with a job task analysis could show that your position has grown sufficiently to justify a higher title, more money, or an assistant.
Take on new responsibilities:
In reviewing your job, you may recognize that you enjoyed certain tasks. Including this information in your self-assessment with a note that you would be interested in transitioning into working on these tasks as a greater percentage of your job or a brand new position could help start a discussion on your future.
Look to the future:
If a co-worker has expressed interest in retiring in a few years, and you want that job, you can express interest in serving as that person’s backup to learn more about what they do and to help with the transition.
Use this as an opportunity to promote an idea you have for improving workflow or saving money, etc. Then volunteer to head up the project to implement your idea.
Embrace the concept!
Note that many elements of a self-assessment could be relevant to your CV or résumé. After you complete it each year, review it against the CV and think about what updates you should add into the document. All too often, we wait until we lose our job to update our résumés, which is a big mistake. Keeping it updated annually means we are ready to go at any time if we lose our job, that the information in it really is the best highlights of our job, and that we are also prepared at any time to submit it for a potential transfer or promotion in our current company.
Once you transition your attitude from hating self-assessments to embracing the chance to show your stuff, you’ll find that they can actually be fun exercises that help you plan out your career long term. They can also help give you the confidence to start a dialogue with your boss about what your future looks like in the company. They can illustrate when we aren’t doing as great a job as we should be and they permit us to take credit for the innovations and accomplishments we bring to our role.
There’s no reason to dread doing your self-assessments when they can be such a powerful force for good in our careers!