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Take steps to ensure that you knock this year’s performance review out of the park.

Normally, says workplace expert and former HR executive Liz Ryan, only a small percentage of employees invest time in preparing.

 “But in 2009, performance reviews will matter—a lot,” Ryan writes in BusinessWeek. As employers forecast their ’09 business prospects and their head-count needs, they’re going to get smarter about talent management.

Here’s how to prepare:

1. Start the process now, regardless of when your review is.
Create a physical file and an Excel spreadsheet to track your major accomplishments for 2009. Save e-mail praise from customers, managers and peers in an e-mail folder. It’s easy to forget April accomplishments in November.

2. Formalize performance goals for 2009. If these don’t already exist, says Ryan, “take it upon yourself to put them on paper and get your manager’s sign-off on your agenda, pronto.”

3. Align yourself with the most critical assignments.
The ones who survive are those working on “do-or-die missions,” she says.

4. Check in.
Don’t assume the flurry of work you produce each day is the most vital work. “Corporate agendas shift quickly,” Ryan says, “and it’s wise to check in at least twice a quarter to make sure your burning-hot priorities are your boss’s most critical items.”

5. Ask peers and colleagues in advance of your review month,
“What could I do to improve my performance?” If colleagues hesitate, Ryan says, prod them: “Seriously, I want your help. Be honest.” And then take the feedback to heart.

Tip: Nowadays, more and more bosses are asking their employees to fill out an employee self review form in preparation for their performance review meeting. To view a sample, see Employee Self Evaluation form.

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