Filling out evaluations is usually no fun. It can be time-consuming, anxiety-inducing, and can result in criticism you weren’t expecting. But some C-level executive decided evals were a good idea, and now most of us have to do it. Let’s just be happy that Microsoft’s former method of evaluating on a curve (!) hasn’t gone mainstream. When you have a chance to do a self-evaluation, it’s really important that you take advantage of highlighting your accomplishments as much as possible. The reason being that you’re likely the only one that is best suited to describe everything you’ve done well.
Sometimes it’s difficult to do it, but we have to get used to promoting ourselves. Think of it as a necessity. It’s necessary that you be your own cheerleader, and that you showcase your skills because there is often a gender bias that comes into play when firms and bosses are determining the performance of women. Many of us have heard that men are often judged on their potential, and women mostly on their perceived competence. This article discusses more biases we may encounter, and it highlights the importance of speaking up for one’s worth. Finally if you need further permission to brag about yourself–look to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who stated:
[V]irtue in obscurity is only rewarded in Heaven. To succeed in this world you have to be known by people.
When I read Sotomayor’s book, that line sprung up at me. I realized that being known has to begin in my own work environment. How could I succeed in my workplace; how could I advance; gain more clients and skills, if I didn’t promote and advocate for myself? It wasn’t easy because being assertive or claiming credit, but ultimately no one was going to advocate for my work as well I could.
If you’ve gone through the evaluation process, what are some of your tried and true methods for creating a self-evaluation that showcases your strengths and attributes?
Here are my tips–
One. Keep people updated throughout the year on your accomplishments. When I get a “win” in a case–maybe a difficult agency signed a necessary document or USCIS approves a complicated case, I’ll send a quick email to either my boss or my whole project to update them. This isn’t a “look how great I am,” email. Rather, I make sure I tie my success to something they can use. For example, maybe I tried a new argument in the complicated case and I give an outline of the argument so others can use it in the future. I don’t abuse this and do for every win, but do it enough so that your boss is in the loop about your work, rather than waiting for evaluation time (when they have to go through everyone’s accomplishments at the same time).
two. Own your success. I am guilty of not doing this! Recently a case of mine was highlighted and when people complimented me, I kept trying to down-play it and finally a voice just told me: shut up and take the compliment! It’s much more gracious to say a simple, “thanks,” than to make a big deal about not wanting praise. But instinctively, I often wanted to downplay or to give others credit instead of myself. I say “we” instead of “I” to feel less awkward and individualistic. While it’s silly to think that if I take some credit, I’ll suddenly seem selfish, it’s actually hard to get over that hump! I’m going to make it a point to take more credit when it’s due.
three. Give quantities and have proof of your achievements. When you’re filling out the evaluations, the more detail the better. It’s easy to say, “I participated in a number of trials as second-chair,” but it’s much more persuasive to say, “I second-chaired four trials; one which ended in a judgement of $X.” Quantities show your contributions. Try to show something tangible for each skill being assessed to show that you met that expectation.
four. Be realistically ambitious. When setting goals, it’s easy to say I’m going to do XYZ by the end of the year. Only to forget and let those goals go to the way-side. In some agencies, it’s no big deal, but you never know when you’ll have a new supervisor that will take you to task for failing to meet those goals or when the agency will decide to change its approach. For me, when it’s time to set my goals for the year, I try to make sure it’s something I know I can truly do but will still test my skills. Thoroughly evaluate what you’re capable of doing and add a little extra so that when you achieve your goals you’re also strengthening your legal skills as much as you can.