How to Prepare a Self-Performance Review

Caroline Ceniza-Levine '93BC
December 04, 2018

If you work for a company that gives official performance reviews, then you have a built-in structure at the end of the year for self-reflection. If you had a breakout year on the job, use the performance review to forward your career. If you didn’t have a strong year, this can still be overcome, but you need to prepare for a negative performance review. (I wrote two posts for Forbes on performance reviews for good and bad years, and these are Part 1 and Part 2 of the Performance Review series.)

If you work for yourself or don’t have an employer that gives reviews, then do a self-performance review. Look at your accomplishments this past year. Identify areas that need improvement. Clarify your priorities going forward. Start planning now to make next year even better.

For Your Homemade Performance Review: 10 Questions to Help Your Self-Reflection

  1. What was your biggest accomplishment this year?

  2. What was your favorite project or client this year?

  3. What are you working on that you’d like to do more of next year?

  4. What was your least favorite project or client this year?
  5. What activity are you going to stop doing or decrease next year?
  6. What skills or expertise did you hone this year? How did you develop professionally?
  7. What resources, training, or support do you need for next year?
  8. Are you excited and energized going into next year?
  9. What is your biggest priority for next year?
  10. How can you take better care of yourself for next year?

Set Aside 30-60 Minutes of Performance Review Time with Your Journal or Idea Book

Capture your answers to the above questions. If there are one or more questions that particularly resonate, go deeper in these areas. For example, if you are not excited about next year (question 8), try to clarify how you’re feeling and why. Are you anxious because your career isn’t secure? Are you feeling burnout and need to slow down?

Use these questions as a springboard to determine what you can start doing now – there’s no magic on January 1. If you identify areas you need help, consider lining up resources now so you can start strong in 2019 (and take advantage of any holiday special pricing). If it turns out you had an amazing year, treat yourself to something extra special (again, taking advantage of holiday specials!). If you had a difficult year, that still might be a reason to celebrate – at least you’re facing the challenge head-on rather than ignoring it. Many times, a breakthrough comes after extreme difficulty or a plateau when it seems nothing is happening.

The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it’s the same problem you had last year. — John Foster Dulles

Bonus question: Are your goals for next year moving you forward or are you wrestling with the same issues as last year?

If you’d like support in moving forward, check out my virtual class on Tues, December 18, 1 p.m. ETHow To Get Started On Your Big Career Goals.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine '93BC, a member of the Columbia Career Coaches Network, specializes in career change as a coach, writer, speaker and co-founder of SixFigureStart® career coaching and, a real estate and early retirement blog. She has coached executives from Amazon, American Express, Condé Nast, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and Tesla. Ceniza-Levine spent 15 years in strategy consulting, executive search, and HR. She has been a repeat TV guest on CBS, CNN, CNBC, and Fox Business and has been quoted in major media outlets, including BusinessWeek, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Fortune, Inc, NPR, and Success Magazine. Ceniza-Levine is a career columnist for Forbes and wrote for,, CNBC, and Portfolio. She is the author of three books. She teaches professional development and negotiation courses at Columbia. A classically-trained pianist at Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music, Ceniza-Levine stays active in the arts, performing stand-up comedy. Learn more about Ceniza-Levine and other members of the Columbia Career Coaches Network.

This article originally appeared on