Is it THAT time of year again?

Photo of calendar page and clockNo, I don’t mean the holidays (though those are approaching all too rapidly).

I mean … performance reviews.

And the even-more-dreaded potential for layoffs.

Because whatever we may think about companies that do this, it’s common practice that when RIFs (Reductions In Force) are necessary, they often happen just before the end of the year. (It’s a financial accounting thing. Which makes it no less painful, of course.)

Likewise, performance reviews are often end-of-year events – and, no matter how many studies, articles, and reports there may be declaring the End of the Performance Review, they’re still marching along in most companies.

Meanwhile, even if you’re a top performer in your organization with no worries about your review or being RIFfed, the end of the year is always a good time for reflection, planning, and preparation for the New Year to come.

Things are slow as we enter into the holidays (unless you’re in a sales position where you’re pressured to finish the year with a bang!). And that makes it a great time to step back a bit and, as the days get shorter and the weather gets cooler, take some of that cozy, slower, hibernation energy and turn it toward introspection. (Apologies to my readers in the southern hemisphere! but the principle still applies.)

What went well this year? What didn’t go so well? And, bearing in mind that most people think they’re well above average in skills, intelligence, and performance, can you take an honest look at yourself and see where you have room for improvement?

(One of my all-time favorite quotes comes from the Zen master Shunryu Suzuki, who said, “Each of you is perfect the way you are … and you can use a little improvement.”)

The difference between being intentional about your career (where and how you want to progress, who you want to be within your work), and not being intentional (going with whatever flow appears), is enormous. It impacts your self-confidence as well as your job performance; your personal relationships as well as your professional advancement; and your overall happiness and sense of meaning and achievement.

What skills do you need – or want – to acquire or improve? How will you accomplish that? Who can you ask for help and guidance in your quest for improvement? Where do you want to be at this time next year?

It may seem early to be asking these questions; most people wait till the last week of the Old Year or the first few weeks of the New Year. But if you set yourself up with these thoughts, plans, and intentions now, you’ll have a head start, or at the very least be poised to spring into action when the holidays are over.

And look, let’s be clear and honest here. If you are in danger of a less-than-stellar review (or even a candidate for layoff), now is the time to think about – and take action on – ways to show improvement, dedication, and determination. While it may or may not prevent the worst-case scenario, you’ll be that much better prepared for whatever comes next.