Career Hack: Making The Most Of Your One-To-Ones And Appraisals

Some bosses are better than others in investing time in you and your development. But even if your boss is pants at it, it doesn’t mean you have to put your development or ambitions on hold while you work for them. Have you heard of managing up?

You should be having regularly one-to-ones with your boss. If not, get some scheduled. These should be taking place outside of your open plan office, preferably in a private meeting room; but not all workplaces have rooms available. Your staff room would work as long as you’re not getting disturbed. Alternatively you could go for a coffee in work time.

You should be having a performance review or an appraisal on an annual basis, but it’s important you get some one-to-one time with your boss in between these, to talk about how things are progressing. Some workplaces suggest this happens monthly, whereas others suggest every two to three months. You’ll know if they’re not regular enough for you.

pasted image 0.png

These meetings are an opportunity to focus on you. They are not an opportunity for your boss to give you an even bigger to do list - though you might get some tasks out of it. They are also an opportunity for you to bring up any issues or concerns, or inform your boss of anything that’s happening for you outside of work that might impact on work.

That’s not to say you have to talk about all the juicy details of your latest break up! Ultimately how much you share depends on the type of relationship you have with your boss, but do remember you’re at work and try and keep it professional. For instance if you get the bus to work and the timetable has altered, maybe explain why you’re struggling to get in on time.

However, we live in a busy world, and I’m sure your boss is even busier than you are, right? So I strongly suggest going in with a game plan - and this involves a bit of preparation on your part. Otherwise it’s all too easy to forget what you’ve achieved since you last met, and what opportunities you wanted to ask about.

pasted image 0-2.png

I find it helpful to spend about an hour thinking about the following headings to help me prepare:

What have you been doing since you last met?

  • Have you achieved all the goals and objectives set for you?

  • How did you find these tasks?

  • Have you taken on anything additional?

  • If you’re struggled to meet any of these goals, why? What slowed you down?

What will you be doing from now until your next meeting?

  • Remind your boss of your current workload.

  • This is also a chance to talk about any worries you might have around completing these tasks, or if you are unlikely to be able to meet your deadlines - and why.

  • If you don’t have a big workload, this is your chance to ask for more work and more opportunities to shine!

pasted image 0-3.png


  • Is there an area that you feel less confident about that is essential for your role? For instance you’re not as confident as you make out when it comes to giving presentations. Or secretly you’ve been blagging it a bit when it comes to how good you are at Excel.

  • Are there any courses - internal or external - you would like to go on? If there’s a cost associated with this, it’s best to find out all the details in advance, and prepare a few sentences persuading your boss why you think you should do this.

  • Are you aiming to progress within your company? And do you need more experience in order to do so? Maybe you’d like to be a manager, but all the adverts say you need experience in this. Could your boss help you get experience by delegating some responsibilities to you, or allowing you to supervise a new starter?


This is your chance to talk about anything that you’re worried about.

  • Maybe you’ve been asked to do something, and you’ve gotten a bit stuck.

  • Maybe you want to let your boss know that a family member is unwell, so you might be a bit distracted.


  • Have you been wondering why you do something in a certain way, because you think you’ve got a better way of doing it?

  • Do you think there’s something missing at your work - like a mentoring scheme - and you want to set something up.


If you take this approach for all of your regular catch ups, it’ll make life so much easier when it comes to your annual review. You won’t have to spend ages thinking about how did you spend the last year, as your achievements are already logged!

As an added bonus, when you do start considering other jobs you’ve already got a whole host of achievements listed, and some solid examples to talk about in interviews.

I find it particularly helpful to ponder the topic of my own development on a regular basis too - and not just leave it to my annual review. This enables me to prioritise my development, and gets me actively looking for opportunities to develop myself. It’s also a great way to ensure you’re shaping the conversation with your boss and not just doing as you’re told.

I also suggest keeping all of your notes from these meetings in one place. If you’re old school, use one notebook just for your one-to-ones. Or if you prefer, keep all your notes in one word document, or at the very least all in one folder.

Written by Aimee Atkinson, who can also be found as @AimeeLouTweets on Twitter.

CareersCity Girl