Performance review season is a time to reflect. A chance to level up, buckle down and in some cases, back out.
This was the case for both performance reviews I’ve ever had: my first, a few years ago, when I was an elementary school teacher and my most recent, now that I’m a writer and editor.
But this performance review was a little different because it came with an unexpected discovery — two, in fact.
I didn’t just circle numbers, drop a few comments and create a plan of attack for the next six months. This review forced me to step out of myself for a second and truly look in the mirror at who I was in my first full-time role since changing careers.
And with that, came the following reflections:
When word of this psychological pattern started going around a few years ago, I had no idea what it meant. It wasn’t until my performance review that I was able to recognize it in myself: imposter syndrome, a feeling of inadequacy in one’s own accomplishments and abilities. Imposter syndrome can look like negative self-talk, lack of self-confidence or the inability to move past your own mistakes (among many other things).
On a scale of “I’m not good at what I do” to “someone else could do my job better than me,” I fell heavily on the latter. And my reasons for why were simple: I was a recent career changer and was new to the editorial industry.
I spent the first few months taking notes and listening intently. Then I spent the next month doing the same. And the next… and the next. Speaking up in my new field felt like trying to jump into a double-dutch rope, and there I was — stuck — knees bent, swaying to the rhythm of the ropes on the sidelines.
Sure, I have a writing and rhetoric degree, taught writing to middle school students and have a portfolio of my writing online. But sometimes, I felt like an AP student with straight As rendered obsolete when I struggled to understand editorial vocabulary, data terms and success metrics. I didn’t share many ideas or question much of anything. I just waited to be told what to do — because I knew I could do that well.
When my performance review rolled around, my manager popped my debilitating bubble of illusion with this simple statement:
“You’re very engaged with the team (both the editorial team and Fairygodboss as a whole).”
Her perspective made me aware that I’d put myself under an imaginary pressure somewhere along the line. That at some point, I started treating myself less warmly, saw myself with less authority and stopped giving myself the credit I deserved for being present. But my manager's comment was an important one — it let me know that what I was doing was enough.
With that, I learned it doesn’t matter how long it took me to learn how to swim in this new field. (I’ve only been in it for six months, for goodness sake!). My treading water looks like doggy paddling so that’s all that matters… so long as I work on my full strokes — which I am.
In completing my own self-evaluation, I noticed a recurring theme in my writing: diversity and inclusion. Every other article I’ve written has been about Latinx women, the LGBTQ+ community or women in leadership.
And looking back, I’ve happily jumped at any opportunity to write about these topics or forged those opportunities myself (like the time I covered Bernadette Sheridan’s panel, a colleague who shared advice on how to stay competitive as a woman over 50 in today’s digital work world).
Ironically enough, I noticed this theme when I listed out the critical accomplishments section of my evaluation. The contributions I felt the most proud of were the ones that exercised my advocacy (and in many respects, my identity, too). Here’s an excerpt of my reflection:
"LGBTQ+ content: I wrote comprehensive LGBTQ+ content in June and found high-volume KWs for production that month. This effort showed our awareness of gender diversity and identity and demonstrated our solidarity with the community.
National Hispanic Heritage Month: I edited the National Hispanic Heritage Month article to accurately reflect and recognize the Latinx community, and changed the tone from passive to active. This achievement positioned us as informed allies and activists on the state of immigration and Latinx-facing issues in our country."
Before my self-evaluation, the only proof of my allyship to underrepresented groups was my Facebook page where I reposted social justice content on an inconsistent basis. Now, I had proof that I cared. And, to combat my imposter syndrome (because why not?), I had proof that my butt in this seat mattered.
All-in-all, performance review season can be a scary time (which it still was for me, just to be clear). But it’s also a time to reflect honestly about who you are, why you’re in your role and if your role is truly the right fit for you.
If you want to ease your pre-review jitters, then request 90-day performance reviews with your manager or schedule weekly meetings to discuss what’s going well, where you could use more support and how you can get ahead of your workload. I had both with my manager before my bi-annual review — and it’s probably why my discoveries were more pleasant than not.
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