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Be honest about strengths, weaknesses at evaluations

Q. I have to write a self-evaluation as part of my annual review with my manager this month. Should I be tough on myself so they know I’m open to constant improvement, be honest about my strengths and weaknesses, or go easy and let my manager point out my development opportunities?

A. Evaluations are intended to help further your career and provide benchmarks that may affect raises and bonuses. As uncomfortable as it can be, it is critical that you sing your own praises as honestly as you share areas for improvement.

Depending on the size of your company or team, you may work for a manager who is less aware of your day-to-day activities and responsibilities. So your self-evaluation is a great place to detail what you do for your organization. Even if your manager is very hands-on, it’s still important to communicate what your role entails, your achievements, and challenges.

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When detailing your accomplishments and successes, be as specific as possible. For example, use quantifiable terms like “demonstrated strong leadership and budget management skills on X project,” as opposed to using subjective adjectives like “great” or “excellent.” Where you can, tie results and outcomes back to productivity, such as how much revenue was generated or how much money or time was saved. Provide concrete examples of how you’ve aided colleagues and projects.

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As you discuss your professional shortcomings, give specifics on how you have worked on them and plan to continue to do so. Give an example of a project where you felt you were not at your best, what you learned, and what you are doing differently. Also remember that everyone has areas where they need to develop, and your manager will appreciate honesty. If there are ways your manager can help, suggest it.

Your self-evaluation is an opportunity to drive the dialogue about your professional growth and livelihood. You should always be just as honest about your assets as your liabilities. It’s not bragging; it’s a requirement for managing your career.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston, and serves on the board of Career Partners International.