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Feedback for Growth: Navigating the Civil Engineer Review Process

An annual review is the perfect opportunity to get tons of feedback on your performance as well as evaluate your progress.

While I am no expert on annual reviews, I want to share what I have learned as well as my conversation with Nicolai on the Engineering our Future podcast.

Unfortunately, many young professionals come to the annual review unprepared and unaware of what they have done in the past year. Let’s change that.

Generally, here is an overview of the annual review. We will dive deeper into some actionable tips as well.

What to expect

If you have never done an annual review, it is hard to know what to expect. Most companies have a different process for performing an annual review. This could mean a very well-structured review with multiple people (more common for bigger companies) or a more casual 1-on-1 conversation (more common for smaller companies). You must enter the annual review knowing a rough agenda of what the review will look like.

What to Bring

What to bring is just as important as what to expect. Here I am not talking about material things (although pen and paper are also essential), instead the information that will make sure you have a successful annual review. During the year, spend time collecting positive (and constructive) feedback to be prepared for the review.

Managers have multiple people to keep track, so it is your job to provide evidence for your great performance. They will collect feedback from others at the company, but this will show how well-prepared you are for the review.

After the Review

I have not done much in the past after the annual review is completed. But as I reflect more, there are a few essential things that could be beneficial:

  • Send out a follow-up email with key points discussed and any goals that came out of the review
  • Consider setting a reminder for a 6-month follow-up (or any other cadence depending on the goals you set)
  • If you know who provided feedback, reach out to them and discuss the feedback, regardless if it was positive or areas of improvement.

Tips for a Successful Review

Your annual review is an essential opportunity to reflect on your past year's accomplishments, set goals for the future, and get feedback from your manager and other colleagues. By following these tips, you can prepare for your review and set yourself up for success:

1. Embrace a growth mindset.

A growth mindset is the belief that your abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. This is an essential mindset for engineers, who are constantly faced with new challenges and opportunities to learn. As you prepare for your review, take some time to reflect on how you have grown and developed over the past year. What new skills have you learned? What challenges have you overcome? What are your goals for future growth?

2. Reflect on your achievements.

Engineers are often modest and don't like to brag about their accomplishments. But it's important to be able to articulate your successes to your manager and other colleagues. As you prepare for your review, take some time to reflect on all of your accomplishments over the past year. This could include completing challenging projects or receiving positive feedback from clients or colleagues.

3. Gather feedback.

In addition to reflecting on your accomplishments, it's also critical to gather feedback from others. This could include your manager, colleagues, clients, or even mentors. Ask them for their thoughts on your strengths and weaknesses, and how you can improve. This feedback can be invaluable in helping you set goals for the future and develop your skills.

4. Set clear goals.

Once you have a good understanding of your accomplishments and areas for improvement, you can start to set goals for the future. What do you want to achieve in the next year? What new skills do you want to learn? What new challenges do you want to take on? Be specific and realistic in your goal setting, and make sure your goals are aligned with your company's goals.

5. Identify challenges and proposed solutions.

No engineer's job is perfect. There will always be challenges and obstacles to overcome. As you prepare for your review, take some time to identify the challenges you faced over the past year and the solutions you implemented. This shows your manager that you can think critically and problem-solve effectively.

6. Be proactive about growth opportunities.

Don't wait for your manager to come to you with growth opportunities. Be proactive and express your interest in taking on new responsibilities and expanding your skill set. This could include volunteering for new projects, attending relevant training, or shadowing more experienced engineers.

7. Practice effective communication.

Finally, during the review itself, it's important to be able to communicate effectively with your manager. Be prepared to discuss your achievements, goals, and development plans clearly and concisely. Be open to feedback and ask thoughtful questions. This will show your manager that you are serious about your career and that you are committed to your growth and development.

Action items:

  • Start reflecting on your accomplishments, challenges, and goals today.
  • Gather feedback from your manager, colleagues, and other trusted individuals.
  • Set clear and specific goals for the next year.
  • Identify the challenges you faced over the past year and the solutions you implemented.
  • Express your interest in taking on new responsibilities and expanding your skill set.
  • Practice effective communication skills.

By following these tips, you can prepare for your annual engineering review and set yourself up for success.

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