I struggle a lot with writing positive feedback about myself. I’m overly critical, judgmental, and am afflicted with being overly modest. Yet, writing about yourself and advocating for yourself is such a useful skill that it’s hard to be overly critical and expect yourself and others to see your progress.
With that, here’s what’s helped me in my last self assessment:
- Track your accomplishments weekly — this is so important! Unless you have a superhuman ability to remember things in incredible detail 6 months from now, it’s useful to track what you’ve shipped, bugs you’ve solved, and what you’ve learned. That way, when you need to list your accomplishments or recall what you need to do when you see a nasty error message, you’ll have something at the ready.
- Bonus: email your manager this weekly list of accomplishments. This keeps you accountable, increases transparency and trust, and keeps your work fresh in your manager’s head.
- There’s likely more things you’ve done right compared to things you’ve done wrong. Be critical, but not overwhelmingly so. If you include more things to work on than things you’ve accomplished in an effort to appear modest, you’ve only done yourself a disservice.
- Be honest when an accomplishment was a team effort, but also point out what your role was. Projects at work hardly ever happen with just one person, so it’s important to state when things are a team effort and exactly what *your* contribution was. Did you contribute to updating documentation? Did you gather technical requirements from stakeholders? Be specific, and you’ll find that providing context will reward you in the long run.
- Be sure not only to write down what you did, but the effect it had. The most popular thing I’ve built at work was a small project I did in the downtime between Christmas and New Years on my couch at home. It didn’t take much time to build, but ended up being used to solve a couple of critical business needs. Write that down! After all, software engineering is much more than writing good code.
I’ve found that staying objective makes it much easier to write about myself in a confident, assertive way. I’m not as worried about appearing arrogant or egotistical when writing feedback, because really, I’m also doing my manager a favor by writing better feedback! Your manager won’t always know all the great things you’ve done, and your good performance reflects well on them, so you might as well be fair to yourself and stay positive.