Six questions to ask yourself before your mid-year review

A mid-year review is a great time to summarise, celebrate, challenge and consider goals set at the beginning of the year, allowing you and your company to evaluate your progress and discuss any strategic alterations or professional development that might be needed.

The most powerful way to use your mid-year review time is to ask yourself some great questions beforehand that can inspire deeper thinking and authentic reflection, helping you to open up the conversation with your line manager—and build a meaningful connection between your performance, your goals and those of the business.

For reflection…

What have been the highlights of my year so far?

Checking in with yourself ahead of a mid-year review is important, but how you do it will have a powerful impact on how you show up when it comes to the meeting. For many, the starting point is to ask themselves how they feel about the year so far. ‘That can be a difficult question for women though, who can often be highly subjective and too tough on themselves,’ says executive coach Rasheed Ogunlaru. ‘Instead, a better question to ask is what your highlights have been- because the answer is evidence-based and irrefutable.’

Those highlights could be personal or professional or anything that you feel has benefitted the organisation or your customers. By gaining clarity here, you can energise yourself and boost your confidence, allowing you to articulate and leverage this information in your review. Says Rasheed, ‘It’s important we get into the habit of being our own ally, ambassador, beloved and best friend in the workplace—and it can be powerful to really see what you’ve contributed across the board in this way.’

What is my main goal for the end of the year, and am I on track with that?

Consider the goals you created at the year’s outset and benchmark yourself against them so you can orientate yourself, says executive coach Pippa Isbell. Consider whether you are on track with key markers, and if not, why not? Do any goals need tweaking? Do you need to rework any parts? Are there external factors to consider? And if progress is going well, how can you build on it or stretch yourself?

‘The best goals are co-created between you and your boss, so use this time effectively—and don’t be afraid to ask for what you need, whether that’s resources, support, training or an adjustment of the goal. It’s also a good time to review whether all your goals are still relevant; things might have changed since the beginning of the year, and there is no point doing something just because it’s written down.’ Pippa also notes that if you’ve already achieved the goal, don’t take that success for granted, as many women tend to do. Instead, make it a deliberate feature of your mid-year review and highlight your success: ‘Remember to blow your own trumpet,’ says Pippa.

For perspective…

What new professional relationships have I developed in the last six months?

Good relationships are essential to career success—providing advocates, support, and access to new opportunities. Asking yourself how many new relationships you’ve been proactive about growing is a powerful question, says executive performance coach Philippa Waller. ‘We can get so stuck on tasks we forget that building our network should really be part of our weekly to-do list. ‘The more familiar your network remains; the less likely people are to recommend you for new opportunities you might need. Strong ties, those who know us well, may also categorise us, whereas ‘weaker ties’, those who know us, but not very well, are often more open to what might be possible for us because they don’t know yet.’ These perspectives, in turn, can help open up a discussion at your mid-year review about how you might want to stretch or pivot in your role. For Philippa, reciprocity is key to network building: ‘Ask what is low cost to you, but high value to others—can you introduce people, recommend them or send them resources they might find useful or interesting? Anything you can do will build your reciprocity bank.’

Who can I get insight and feedback from that will help me progress?

Asking yourself who can offer you real insight and feedback is an important question in your career because trusted sources can give valuable perspectives on your progress. ‘Formal or informal mentors can give you fresh eyes on questions like, how am I showing up here? And, how do you think I’ll measure up against this goal?’ says Pippa Isbell. If you don’t have a mentor, a mid-year review might be the place to discuss putting a formal or informal relationship like this in place for yourself.

Pippa also recommends making sure the feedback you’re getting in the review itself is actionable. Many people I’ve spoken to say they can have a conversation with their boss that’s quite constructive, but reflecting afterwards, they often think, ‘What did they actually mean by that?’ This can be particularly pertinent if your line manager is a man—there is evidence that male bosses tend to give female colleagues less actionable feedback than males. To a man, they might say, ‘You need to do this’, but to a woman, it’s more likely to be, ‘You’re not achieving that.’

For action…

What habits would I like to change or augment, and how can I do that?

A challenging question like this will help you reflect on what has worked and what could work better and will allow you to create action points with your line manager in your mid-year review. ‘What you do with your days is how you spend your lives, is a quote I love from Annie Dillard and sums up how important it is to ask a question like this,’ says Philippa Waller. ‘Take a ‘stop, start, less, more’ view. What do I need to stop doing? Start doing? Do less of? Do more of? And break it down: asking yourself, how can I make positive habits simpler, easier or more enjoyable for myself?’

Supporting your wider goals with habits that make you more efficient, more relaxed or more impactful is the ultimate career hack. As Philippa notes, ‘The people that get where they want to go are the ones who enjoy picking up the next stick or brick that’s going to build the next part of the path. Ultimately, we have to fall in love with the process.’

How can I supercharge the second part of my year?

Gaining perspective on the first half of the year will help you become clearer about what’s gone well and where the challenges and learnings have been—and get ready to expand on these with your boss in the review, showing yourself to be an active player in your own professional development. Armed with this knowledge, you are then ready to build on it and explore with your manager what will really create the most effective outcomes in the second part of the year.

‘Reflecting on the first half of the year, you’re going to have a sense of what actually is going to be doable for the second six months and getting clarity on what your priorities should be there will supercharge you,’ says Rasheed Ogunlaru.

‘Focus on the one or two things that will have the biggest positive impact for you and distil what is really going to be most significant in your role. This question will also allow you to see where you might need more resources, adjustments to goals or support that you can discuss with your line manager.’


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