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How to get a positive performance review every time

In total, a performance review takes about 10 minutes. But, what you do before the review to prepare, and then after in response can literally mean a million dollars over your lifetime.

Ramit Sethi

Most performance reviews take about 15 minutes. But what you do before the review to prepare, and then after in response, can literally mean a million dollars over your lifetime.

My students who’ve used the techniques we’re covering today often turn their performance reviews (even the not-so-great ones!) into raises of $10,000 (or more).

The best way to increase your income — permanently — is to increase your salary. And one of the best times to do that is at your next performance review.

Even if you’re only able to get half of that (a $5,000 raise) it adds up dramatically over time.
Take a look:

This is not a pipedream. This is reality.

In this post, I’ll show you the exact negotiation strategies and word-for-word scripts to get paid what you deserve and keep moving forward in your career. This works even if your boss identifies areas for improvement or the worst-case-scenario, you end up with a negative performance review.

But, when you plan 3-6 months ahead, your performance review will just be a formality. That may seem like a long time, but the more deliberate you are in the months leading up to your review, the higher the odds you’ll land a major raise.

Before your performance review: Set the timeline

The biggest mistake people make with performance reviews is this: they simply show up on the day of their review and meekly ask for a raise or a promotion.

If this is your plan, you will lose. And, what’s more, you deserve to lose.

The performance review itself is only a small fraction of what actually makes or breaks your raise. What really matters is the preparation you do beforehand. This will determine whether you succeed or fail.

I call this front-loading the work and it doesn’t just apply to appraisals — you can use it to sell services to clients, write a killer resume, or dominate job interviews.

Note: If your performance review is next week, you obviously can’t get the full benefits of this timeline, but you can still prepare and execute the Briefcase Technique, covered here.

Here are some examples of preparation you can do to accelerate your path to becoming a top performer — and landing a raise — in 3-6 months. (I cover even more of these preparation tips and other advanced career strategies in my Dream Job program.)

  • Doing amazing work for at least 3-6 months, with written praise collected from your coworkers and your own boss.
  • Creating a 5-page document of proof of performance — aka how you’ve beaten the metrics you’re evaluated on. This document includes all the ways you’ve added value above and beyond your job’s requirements.
  • Getting mentors who have years more experience at the job than you, learning from them, and applying their tips.

Once you’ve put in the work and have done a decent amount of preparation, here’s how to get your boss to say “yes” every time.

Before your performance review: Prepare the “Briefcase”

It’s easy to tell your boss you’ve done great work and that in your next review you plan on asking for more responsibilities and pay.

But when you actually prove it — and explain how your work has and will continue to translate into more profit or savings for the company — you’ll instantly grab your boss’s attention.

The secret is SHOW, DON’T TELL.

This principle is called the Briefcase Technique, and it’s helped thousands of people amaze employers and earn hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Here’s how you can use it right away.

Your “Briefcase” is what you’ll want to start building 1-2 months before your review date.
As for what to include, we’ll cover that next, but make sure you have a good grasp on how you’ll present your own “Briefcase” before moving forward.

Here’s an exercise you can do to help you prepare your briefcase.

First, take an inventory of all you’ve done for your company.

Get detailed here and list all the ways you’ve become more valuable to the company since you started your job.

Some sample questions to get you started:

  • Have you delivered specific results? Which ones? Estimate how much they were worth.
  • Has your communication improved? How so?
  • Are you more efficient than before? How do you know?
  • Do you know the business better? How does this translate to the company’s bottom line?
  • Have you developed new skills? What kind?
  • Keep digging until you’ve listed everything out.

After your performance review: Execute your “Briefcase”

The second part of your briefcase should be benchmarks you can hit to add value above and beyond what you’ve already done.

Sample ideas:

  • Maybe there’s a new project you could lead?
  • Maybe you’ve got an idea for a system that could streamline communication?
  • Maybe you’re willing to get additional training and certifications to take on more responsibilities?
  • Maybe your boss gave you a specific area for improvement and you create a system to track progress?
  • Or any other ideas you have that could help your employer out

These are the things you’ll SHOW — not tell — your boss so they KNOW you are someone who delivers real results.

The key here is to follow up. You should not wait until your next performance review to communicate with your boss about your progress.

Your briefcase could include a 30, 60, and 90-day plan for what you intend to achieve both personally and for the company. Set reminders on your calendar to follow up with your boss to inform them that you’ve hit or exceeded your goals each month.

You can also ask your supervisor if he’d like an “End of Day” report where you briefly tell him what you accomplished and what you have planned for tomorrow. It could look something like this:

An email like this lets your supervisor know you’re on track.

As a CEO, I LOVE to open my inbox and see the answers to my questions waiting for me!

Especially when it includes the phrase “No response necessary” because it means I’m not stuck with yet another email to respond to.

Second, get in the habit of asking for feedback. Ask your boss how things are going from his perspective and what improvements he’d want to see from you.

This may be uncomfortable at first, but it’s incredibly valuable. Constantly receiving and implementing feedback means you’re getting better at your job every day. This is a skill I look for when hiring and it’s surprisingly rare to find.

After your performance review: Turn your review into money

If you do this correctly your performance review = more money. I’ll show you how, including the exact words to use in my free Ultimate Guide to Getting a Raise & Boosting Your Salary.

This guide includes some of our most advanced material on negotiation – including real world examples, case studies, a salary calculator, and cut-and-paste scripts to make sure you get paid what you deserve in 2016.

If you only check out one piece of this guide, use the salary calculator to see how much you’re missing out on:


How much is a one-time pay raise worth over your career?

Here are some of my favorite parts of this guide:

  • Exactly what to say to get a raise: Including word-for-word scripts that you can use if you’re inexperienced or nervous about what to say (in Part 4)
  • How to counter objections: How to easily overcome the “Shut-you-down” objections your boss will use, like “Maybe next year” and “The timing just isn’t right” (in Part 2)
  • Perfect for people who hate confrontation (aka every damn millennial): How to get your boss to say “Yes”…without any confrontation (in Part 3)

It’s tested and proven to work. Even if your job pays pretty well, you might be leaving some income on the table.

Income you deserve.

So check it out. In as little as a 15-minute conversation with your boss, you could get a 10-30% pay bump.

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