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performance review documentWhen I was in the Navy Reserve, one of my early FITREPs (the Navy’s version of a performance evaluation) was nearly a disaster. In my latest blog post, read how, with the stern advice of my captain, I salvaged my review and probably saved my career.

Have you ever been asked to write your own performance review?

It happens far more frequently than you would expect. I remember feeling a bit annoyed the first time my boss asked me to draft my own review. It felt braggy. It felt weird. It felt like my boss must not have been paying attention to my work. How dare he?

But then, it happened with another boss. And another. Admittedly, I continued to feel annoyed each time, but I started providing bullets describing what I’d accomplished. That’s about all I offered though. And I got away with it.

It wasn’t until performance review time for the Navy, that I learned my biggest lesson about contributing meaningfully to my own reviews. In the Navy, a performance review for officers is called a Fitness Report, or FITREP. My captain asked me to provide him a write up before our discussion. I typed up a few sentences and figured we could talk about it and he’d round out the narrative based on that conversation. Wow, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

As I sat down for our review, the captain firmly expressed his disappointment in my half-hearted contribution to this important process. FITREPs have significant weight in the evaluation for officers’ promotions. He made it clear that this exercise was not because he didn’t believe in my performance, but rather, he knew the importance of me learning how to share my good work in the right ways to help me move up in my Navy career. “I was tempted to just sign this and let it be in your records,” he told me. “But that would have been a career killer.”

After that reality check, I went back and rewrote my FITREP. I never sounded so amazing. It was awkward to write, but the accomplishments were what I really did achieve that year. From that moment forward, I kept a file of projects, contributions and accolades I received throughout the year. When it was time for reviews, I was armed with the words I needed to contribute to my review in a meaningful way.

Next time you’re asked to write your own review, consider it a huge opportunity to give visibility to those things you’ve accomplished that may otherwise go unnoticed.