All engineering firms handle employee reviews differently. Some conduct a six-month review and then a more comprehensive annual performance review with each employee, while some do only the latter. Regardless of when and how your firm conducts these reviews, I believe that they present a huge opportunity for the professionals being reviewed to ask important questions related to their career growth and development. Here are three questions I recommend that you ask during your next performance review.
1-What are the different pathways for growing my career here going forward?
It is important that you have clarity in what’s ahead in your career. No, you’ll probably never have a detailed map to follow, and you shouldn’t, as flexibility is a good thing. However, a certain level of clarity is important. Without clarity, you are essentially driving a boat into a fog. You can’t see what’s ahead, and therefore you can’t plan or prepare accordingly.
Is there a specific management track that you are headed for in your firm? Does your supervisor feel that the technical track would best suit you? Do you agree with his or her assessment? If so, what can you do to facilitate progress?
The best-case scenario is that you ask the question and your supervisor provides some options, one or a few of which you are excited about. The worst-case scenario, you don’t ask, and you end up missing out on an opportunity that you really would have liked, or you fail to discover that there aren’t great opportunities for growth from your current position. At the Engineering Management Institute, we have started helping civil engineering firms build Career Roadmaps to be able to easily show prospective and existing employees the possible pathways at their firms. Clarity is so important in growth and development for both individuals and companies.
2-What training and development programs will be available to me over the next 24 months?
Most civil engineering companies that I speak to have fallen behind greatly on training because of all of the project work they are currently inundated with. This is a dangerous habit to adopt. Firms are doing well financially now because of an abundance of work, so they have held off on training (mainly because they can’t afford to take people off of billable project work). However, this will catch up with them. It will also negatively affect your career if you are not getting the right training at the right times during your career.
For example, if you are on track to become a project manager, when will they provide PM training? If you are on a technical track, are you getting all of the technical training you need to be able to keep up with industry standards? One of your goals in your career should be continuous improvement. Each day, month, and year you should strive to become a better version of yourself. Training and development are fundamental to that. There are plenty of civil engineering companies that provide stellar development programs – make sure you have access to them.
3-In your opinion, what is one change that I could make that would yield the largest improvement in my overall performance?
This question may be tough to ask, but a great supervisor will take the time to answer it, thoroughly. I am a huge believer in the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 Rule, which says that 80% of the success in your career or life comes from 20% of your efforts. Essentially, a few of the actions you take garner most of your success. What if you could identify these key drivers and improve them? Your performance would likely improve exponentially. And you may not be able to identify them without asking this question.
The bottom line here is that your performance review presents a HUGE opportunity for you to be able to plan ahead in your career. My goal is that by equipping you with these questions, you might be able to gain valuable information that can provide career clarity and ultimately the growth you desire.
One last IMPORTANT recommendation would be to present these questions to your supervisor two to three weeks prior to your review to give them the proper time to prepare helpful answers.
Anthony Fasano, P.E., F.ASCE, is the founder of the Engineering Management Institute, which has helped thousands of engineers develop their business and leadership skills. He hosts the Civil Engineering Podcast and is the author of a bestselling book for engineers, Engineer Your Own Success. Through his work at EMI, he has also recently launched the Civil Engineering Collective as well as a weekly news show for civil engineers called This Week in Civil Engineering.