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  1. Blog
  2. Career Development

Know Thyself: How to Write a Constructive Self-Evaluation

To thine own self be true

Woman writing a constructive self-evaluation
Image courtesy of Hannah Olinger

We are often our own worst critics. So, when it comes time to complete a self-evaluation for work, it can be difficult to know exactly what to include. Should you talk yourself up and gloss over flaws? Should you be honest and upfront about areas of improvement? What if imposter syndrome creeps in and illuminates all of your perceived weaknesses?

A self-evaluation is your chance to bring attention to your accomplishments at the company and to talk about your work goals and how your supervisor can help you achieve them.

Here’s your guide to writing a thorough report, plus a few helpful examples to get your creative juices flowing.

Preparing for the self-evaluation

Get a little background

Before you start writing, collect the materials you’ll need to reflect on your performance, like a list of quarterly goals, monthly benchmarks and status reports, and the feedback you received in the previous review. If you keep a work journal —which might include things like positive client feedback, specific sales or engagement stats, or challenging situations that you dealt with—grab that too. Assemble all your notes and review them thoroughly and honestly.

It’s not a bad idea to glance over previous reviews from managers, then use similar criteria to craft your self-evaluation.

Read more: Your Greatest Work Strengths (& Weaknesses) Based on Your Myers-Briggs Type

Create an outline

This doesn’t have to be a Roman numeral–style outline like you wrote in high school or college; it’s just about mapping the points you want to hit. Perhaps start by comparing where you are now to where you were last year, then move on to accomplishments, followed by moments of learning,, and finish it off with goals for the future. That way, when it comes time to write, you’ll at least have a general structure to follow that should help combat writer’s block.

Challenge yourself

Self-evaluations aren’t just a chance to pat yourself on the back—your employer is expecting an honest analysis of your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself with a few questions, like:

  • Am I where I hoped I would be a year ago?

  • What’s a specific example of a time I messed up, and how can I grow from it?

  • In what areas can I / should I improve in the next quarter?

While you should use the evaluation to showcase why you’re a valuable part of the company, it’s also wise to show that you aren’t afraid to admit when you’re wrong or where you stand to improve—and can use those mistakes and challenges as a chance to grow.

Writing your self-evaluation

Focus on a handful of your strongest accomplishments

Instead of spending time touching on every single thing you did right, focus on two or three particularly strong examples. Try to pick examples that can be backed up with data.

Connect your accomplishments and goals to larger company goals

Link your accomplishments and strengths to the company’s goals or culture. For example, if the company values innovation, mention original ideas you’ve brought to the table or implemented. If the company values a positive work environment, discuss ways you contribute to an inclusive work culture.

Stay positive

You will need to talk about mistakes and areas for improvement in your evaluation, but use positive language to do so. For example, you might talk about a project that didn’t go to plan, but then follow it up with the plan you created to avoid similar mistakes in the future. Maybe you bombed a potential client phone call, but were able to win one more chance to pitch them.

If you haven’t yet addressed challenges, show them your plan for making them right in the future.

Make it only about you

Don’t throw anyone else under the bus for your mistakes. Maybe you have a toxic coworker who interferes with your work, but it’s best to bring that problem directly to your supervisor in a different conversation instead of using it as an excuse for your poor performance.

Read more: Self-Affirmation: Spells We Can All Get Behind

Set goals

Take some time to make it clear that you’re thinking critically about how you can improve your performance and the company too. Identify your goals and lay out a plan for achieving them.

Ask questions

You can use this time to ask your supervisor about growth opportunities. Want to learn more about SEO? Take a coding class? Attend a major conference and make a few connections? What about making a concerted effort to get a promotion? Now is the perfect time to make a case for why both you and the company would benefit from furthering your skillset.

Ask for help

If you’re struggling in your job, it’s okay to ask for help. Perhaps you’ve had a hard time meeting your quantitative goals despite your best efforts; ask your manager for advice or further training. Maybe you want to be a better manager for your own direct reports; express that. Or maybe your workload is simply too heavy and you believe you could produce better-quality work if you had a little more breathing room; talk about it.

Give your self-evaluation a thorough review

Before turning in your self-evaluation, make sure it’s typo-free. Consider having a friend or trusted coworker take a look at what you’ve come up with, and ask if they have any suggestions, whether it be adding another accomplishment, adjusting your tone, or tweaking your areas of growth.

Read more: A Couple’s How-To for Dealing with Dual Careers

3 self-evaluation examples

Project manager: focusing on accomplishments

After taking time to carefully reflect on my performance over the past year, there are several key accomplishments that stick out in my mind. First, I supervised the launch of our collaboration with Front Porch Homes, a project which yielded the client a 115 percent increase in website engagement and aided the company in securing a year-long contract. Additionally, by securing a speaking engagement at a national conference, I was able to network and bring attention to the company's work and brand, establishing a connection with a number of leads that eventually led to us landing 12 new clients. I feel it was an important step in helping the company reach its goals concerning expanded outreach and client diversification.

Sales associate: recognizing flaws

While I was pleased with many of my accomplishments this past year, I also recognize that there’s always room for growth. One specific area that I’d like to continue working on is time management. More than once, I allowed my workload to get the best of me, which meant I could have provided a better experience for my clients. I’ve already started using several time-management strategies that have allowed me to stay on top of my work—including detailed trackers and productivity methods—and in the future I won’t be afraid to ask for help when it’s needed.

Content writer: goals moving forward

I believe it may be beneficial for me to attend a few online SEO workshops. This is knowledge the content team needs and it could be highly beneficial for the company’s online presence and drawing traffic to our website. In the next year, I’d like to see us increase our traffic grow an average of 10 percent month-over-month, and these SEO workshops could play a major role in that.

Read more: How to Write a Professional Development Plan & Why You Should

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