My first-ever performance review was for a huge consulting firm. It felt like drinking water from a firehose: how could I condense everything I'd done and learned into a few paragraphs? I stayed up all night, hacking together a list.
But when I was done, I realized I'd missed the mark. All I had created was a record of the activities I'd done. The "so what?" wasn't there. It wasn't an ideal way to kick off my career.
So I developed a system that helped me track and celebrate my milestones and prepare for my reviews—without subjecting myself to disgusting coffee and all-nighters. Here's my system, and how you can adapt it for your performance reviews.
Step 1: Identify your metrics
A successful performance review connects your accomplishments to metrics that matter. So how do you identify the most important metrics?
Pull verbs from your job description
When you boil down a job description down, the verbs are what matter. Those words—along with company goals—should guide your everyday work. So the first step in preparing for a review is to think about the metrics each verb corresponds to.
I'll show you what I mean using this Partner and Field Marketing job description.
Take the second bullet, for example. "Create creative and memorable joint marketing collaterals and programs with partners through in-person events." The verb "create" can turn into metrics like: number of co-authored blog posts, number of joint research reports, number of co-branded email campaigns, and so on.
But that's just a start—you need to focus on the results your materials produce. So break down those metrics even further:
The success of your co-authored blog posts could be reflected in the number of impressions, likes, shares, and comments they get.
The success of your research reports can be measured in terms of downloads or new applications to your partner portal.
The success of your co-branded email campaigns could be evaluated by open rate, CTR, or PQLs.
Last, cross-check the metrics you have with departmental objectives to ensure your day-to-day activities are meaningful to the business:
The number of impressions, likes, shares, and comments could fit well with: "Establish a well-known, partner-led community"
The number of applications to the partner portal might correspond to: "Drive engagement across the partner ecosystem"
The number of PQLs may apply to: "Make partnerships X% of the company's ARR"
Note: Some verbs in your job description may be nebulous, like "collaborate" or "lead." Try to find a way to convert them into a number. For instance, "collaborate" could turn into "worked on X number of cross-functional projects," and "lead" could turn into "onboarded X new direct reports."
Rinse and repeat
Repeat this process for all of the lines in your job description, and voilà!—you have a comprehensive list.
If you're hoping for a promotion, I recommend finding job descriptions for the next level up. Big Four accounting firms and most consulting firms are famously good at providing the exact criteria you need to hit (shoutout to Accenture). Other companies, not so much. If that's the case, watch people you admire on LinkedIn.
What projects do they list under experience?
What skills are they marketing externally?
Do they have any certifications you should think about getting?
What are some themes in the recommendations they've received?
Then add a few more metrics to your list.
Step 2: Set goals or review the ones you already have
Once you've mapped out your metrics, you need to set goals. I suggest breaking your goals down into three categories, using your objectives as a jumping-off point.
The number of desired projects related to each objective (e.g., number of campaigns)
Target metrics for each project (e.g., number of PQLs)
Target execution scores for each metric (e.g., how good you thought your campaigns were)
The last category is subjective on purpose. A key component of most performance reviews is a written or verbal form of self-reflection. Use this score to back up your concrete metrics and add color to your narrative.
Step 3: Create your assessment form
You've done most of the work by now, and we've reached the easy part: making your assessment form. Head to Google Forms (or any other free form software) and make a survey replicating this field structure:
Project: short description
Metric: short description (but should be # or %)
Related objective: add all of your objectives to a dropdown field
Execution score: scale of 1 – 5
Positive feedback link: short description (can link out to Slack or Teams messages)
Positive feedback screenshot: file upload
The final product should look something like this:
Submit a response to ensure the form collects your responses and converts them into a Google Sheet. Check this by clicking on the Responses tab (a few charts should appear), then View in Sheets (this should open up a new Google Sheet with columns for each field).
Step 4: Gamify your review
If you're competitive like me, you'll work harder when there's a way to win. In this case, think of your win as an undeniable promotion: you hit all your goals (which are aligned with your department's objectives) and have the metrics and stellar feedback to prove it. Or maybe your win is a rave performance review that you can brag about to your friends/kids/dog.
This form will help you get there, enabling you to track your progress, make adjustments, and push yourself throughout the year.
Take the assessment regularly
A big step toward your ultimate win is making a habit of filling out your form. You can block your calendar or set an alarm on your phone, but I prefer working it into my weekly schedule. Consider using it to wrap up your week with a glass of wine in hand or to avoid eye contact and small talk in your kid's pickup line. I know: it's something else to add to your growing to-do list. But you'll thank yourself for making this a weekly practice.
Analyze the assessment
When you make your survey a weekly habit, you'll start to accumulate a lot of valuable data. And you should put that data to use! It can tell you:
If you should ask for new projects related to a certain objective
If you should use up some of your development funds to bump up your execution scores
If you should ask peers or clients for more feedback
What questions to add to your 1:1 agendas
Whether you're in good shape to go for an out-of-cycle promotion
Number nerds out there: the analysis will be your favorite part. Get as fancy as you want with SUMIF formulas and pivot tables to see how close you are to hitting your goals from Step 2. If you're not a spreadsheet wizard, you can still use filters to figure out where you're at in relation to your goals.
Automate the process
In some cases, you may not even need to complete the form itself. If you have content to add to your Google Sheet coming through other channels, you can use Zapier to automatically send that over to your spreadsheet.
For example, whenever you save a Slack message, it can send the message to your Google Sheet. Same goes for labeling an email and lots of other options.
Send Saved Messages in Slack to a Google Spreadsheet
Add new labeled Gmail emails to rows in Google Sheets
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Step 5: Structure your case
You can't just share your Google Sheet with your manager and call it a day. You need to do a bit of tidying and consolidation first.
Clean your Google Sheet
Your spreadsheet might be a little messy by the end of the year, especially if you're doing calculations. Consider adding another tab or creating a new sheet to house your final numbers. (If you're pasting totals or pivot tables, use Paste Special > Values Only.)
Also make sure to upload any feedback screenshots and graphs from the backend of your form to a shareable folder.
Now you just have to put it all together. I recommend going through your data and dumping anything you think is particularly special into a document. With all the numbers, feedback, and self-reflection in one place, you can craft a compelling, coherent story.
Don't forget: you have timestamps in your dataset, meaning you can measure your improvement in a specific area over time. This is especially useful if you're trying to show how you've developed a new skill or grown over the course of a quarter or year.
Before you submit your review, take another pass. In this last read-through, double-check that each element of your story directly connects to broader company goals.
By contributing to your performance review a little each week, you'll capture a wealth of data you can distill into exactly what you want to say—well in advance of your review. In addition to helping you show off your work, the data points you collect are great resume refreshers, and you can turn your positive feedback into killer anecdotes to share in a future interview.