At many companies, employees are expected to participate in performance review every year. While you may be tempted to try and get through the process as quickly as possible, know that the process of reviewing your accomplishments and outlining goals for next year with your supervisor is extremely important if you’re looking to advance your career within the company.

The annual performance review at work is awkward. It’s awkward, but an annual performance review can also be incredibly rewarding if you play it right. Here’s how to play your cards and make it both smooth and profitable.

Keep track of your activities throughout the year. Avoid scrambling to remember what you did in the early months of the year by keeping a running list of your activities and accomplishments. Whether you keep a paper or electronic to-do list, save it in a folder for review when annual review to be conducted. You may take 15 minutes at the end of each week to reflect on and make notes on what you accomplished that week. If you haven’t done this, looking back at past meeting calendars and emails can help jog your memory.

Write a self-review. For the most part, you know what your boss is going to ask you, so ask it of yourself—especially because a lot of your bosses will base their performance review of you based on what you write about yourself. What have you accomplished this year? How has your performance improved since last year? How can you improve further? What contributions have you made to the team? Have you developed new skills? Refer to your “cookie list” above for inspiration.

Define your top accomplishments. After making a list of everything you’ve accomplished, identify the ones that have made the greatest impact on the organization and that best demonstrate your abilities. Some employers use a form asking you to list a certain number of accomplishments; if yours doesn’t, bring in a bulleted list and be prepared to expand on each of them.

Determine your goals for next year. Your review should not just be about looking back on your past activities, but also determining what you want to achieve next year. Do you want to take on new roles at your company? Are there educational or professional development goals you’d like to achieve? Plant the seeds now to show your boss you’re committed to your career and the company.

Brace yourself for honest truths and feedback. We can all improve somehow. Don’t take it personally when your boss tells you how you can do or be better. Embrace it and offer ideas that can improve your performance for next year. Some supervisors are naturals at giving you feedback on your work performance; if yours isn’t, be prepared to ask questions about how they’ve perceived your work and contributions. If you think you might receive critical or negative feedback, be prepared to receive it calmly and ask questions to clarify their perspective instead of getting upset. Follow up with human resources to see when you can expect your raise, and follow up with your boss to let her know you’re taking her wishes seriously and check in on your progress. Then note that on your next performance review.

Following these tips will give you a solid start toward having a useful annual review. Good luck!

Images © Littlefew