I don't think I'm alone in saying that your mid-term and/or end-of-term performance review can be almost as scary as going to your first job interview. After at least four months of challenging projects, new situations, and complicated tasks, you finally get a chance to sit down with your supervisor and get their honest feedback on your hard work. What if you didn't meet your employer's expectations? How do you know if you succeeded or not? What happens if you and your supervisor have conflicting opinions? These were all thoughts that ran through my head during my first formal review, and thoughts that I'm sure many students encounter when it's time for their evaluation.
Based on my experiences, here are some tips you can take to ensure that you make your performance review a valuable and painless (not scary!) experience:
1. Always Have a Professional Attitude!
Your language and attitude in the workplace should always be professional. Make an effort to be courteous!
Strive to be on time every day, even if no one is counting - it says a lot about your attitude. This seems like very basic advice, but it's important to address, especially since as students we are so used to taking control of our own schedules. I, myself, am a night owl and had trouble adjusting to 6 AM wake-ups every day. However, after some comments from coworkers and supervisors, I made an extra effort to get to work early and put in a full day. My supervisor noticed right away and I received much better feedback as a result.
So the lesson is, even if your work environment is very comfortable and casual, don't let yourself get carried away! Professionalism comes first and that is how your colleagues and clients will remember you in the long run.
2. Take Pride in Your Work!
Review all your completed projects and accomplishments and don't be afraid to give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. Employers like to hear when you've achieved personal successes because it shows that you are making a directed effort to excel at your job. If you think there is a particular task or skill that you excel at, don't be afraid to show it off a little - it shows that you have self-confidence, are aware of your own skills and abilities, and take pride in not just completing a task, but completing it well.
3. Identify Your Strengths and Areas for Improvement
Again, being self-aware is the key to success. What areas do you think you excel at? What areas do you have trouble with? Why are you nervous when your employers ask you to complete certain tasks? If you know what your strengths and weaknesses are, you can directly address them at your performance review. Also, you want to make sure both you and your employer have similar ideas about which aspects of your work could use further improvement. It would be really awkward going into your review thinking you have done a fantastic customer service job, for example, and finding out that your reports from clients don’t actually support that statement.
4. Be Direct With Your Employers About Your Learning Objectives
Is there anything you feel you need to work on? Bring it up with your employer. Create a strategic plan to help you improve those skills. Employers like to hear that you are constantly looking to improve and learn. Employers can typically help you find new projects that challenge you and help you meet your goals.
5. Look Forward to Receiving Feedback
A performance review is always a constructive experience. If you receive less than stellar feedback, don't let it get you down! Just work harder and prove that you can overcome challenges. Be open to suggestions from your colleagues. Your co-op supervisors and fellow employees are there to make sure you maximize your learning opportunity and have an enjoyable work term!
Performance evaluations will never be 100% positive but are always a mixture of 'excellent' and 'room to improve' comments. The way I view it, evaluations are learning experiences that I can grow from and they most valuable when I walk out with some new goals. I leave knowing what I did right and things I can continue to work on. In the end, I have a new goal that I can strive towards and another challenge to overcome.
If you are nervous going into your performance review, it is always a good idea to have a quick chat (over the phone or via email) with your Co-op coordinator or Co-op student advisor. They can help you prepare for your evaluation and let you know what to expect (and give you some background on previous students who have been in your situation!)
The best part of being a Co-op student is that your employer knows you are there for a learning experience. So take advantage of this time that you have to correct your mistakes and get mentorship from your supervisors; you'll pass your performance reviews with flying colours.