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27 Performance Review Goals for Early Career Employees

manager congratulates an early career employee

Setting performance review goals for your early career employees—or, more accurately, helping them set appropriate goals for themselves—is a very individualized and personal endeavor. Adding the right elements to the recipe, so to speak, therefore varies significantly depending on the individual’s needs and aspirations. Still, your key focus always lies in customizing a blueprint or template for success to help your staff members find new ways of increasing their own productivity, which of course improves your departmental and ultimately company performance.

The big bang of the performance review and goal-setting process always comes from making it an individualized and tailored action plan. At first glance, that specificity may seem difficult to achieve, especially with early career employees who may not have a robust history of work to analyze and provide feedback on. However, this article will give you a foundation from which to create goals for even the greenest of staff members!

Here is a complete list of potential performance review goals for early career employees in any field:

Based on our bestselling bundle!

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Chief Human Resources Officer Paul Falcone developed two must-have guides for any manager who gives a performance review! Discover the shortcuts, suggested phrases, tips, scripts, and advice found within the pages of 2600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews and 2600 Phrases for Setting Effective Performance Goals.

1. Adaptability and Change Management Skills

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Look for opportunities to assume greater responsibilities outside your job description
  2. Always be ready to anticipate and adjust for roadblocks
  3. Welcome change as an opportunity to learn and add new skills to your repertory

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Forecast the five biggest challenges facing our industry and company and recommend ways to adapt
  • Volunteer to participate on committees and task forces to gain a more thorough perspective of the challenges facing the company

2. Attendance and Punctuality

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Develop a reputation for reliability and excellence in all that you do
  2. Set the standard for attendance and punctuality on our team
  3. Comply with all company standards of performance and conduct

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Avoid taking sick days up to the policy maximum
  • Strive to attain perfect attendance
  • Arrive each day fully prepared to tackle your job responsibilities

3. Attitude

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Readily admit your mistakes or shortcomings
  2. Bring out the best in people by demonstrating sincerity and care in all that you do
  3. Welcome constructive criticism as an opportunity to learn and grow

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Be mindful of your tone of voice, body language, and posture
  • Live the mantra, “Each to his own without judgment”
  • Remain a positive influence at work, full of energy and willing to help wherever needed
  • Avoid exaggeration, trash talk, obscenities, or other language that may offend others

4. Communication

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Readily admit that you’re not sure of an answer
  2. Listen and respond to others appropriately using a respectful tone
  3. Show deference to more tenured coworkers who have contributed to the company for many years before you joined us

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no
  • Refrain from using comments like, “It’s not in my job description”
  • Nod your head to communicate that you are actively listening

5. Conflict Management and Resolution

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Put others’ needs ahead of your own, and expect them to respond in kind
  2. Always develop cooperative relationships, and look for common ground
  3. Welcome and encourage others’ feedback so that they are comfortable sharing minor concerns with you before they become major impediments

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Restate the other’s point of view before offering an alternative solution
  • Make appropriate use of the human resources department and other internal resources when problems must be escalated
  • Perception is reality until proven otherwise; therefore, always hold yourself accountable for your own perception management

6. Creativity and Innovation

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Rethink or simplify routine processes and apply solutions in new ways
  2. Immerse yourself in the problem, define it clearly, and then turn it upside down before attempting to generate creative alternatives
  3. Grow your career by focusing always on creativity, productivity, and efficiency

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Innovation is about learning, and so learn how technologies and markets evolve and how they are linked  
  • Focus on developing a reputation more as an innovation worker than as a knowledge worker
  • Employ right-brain imagination, artistry, and intuition, plus left-brain logic and planning
  • Avoid becoming overly consumed with marginally productive ideas
  • Always look for new ways of adding customer value as an ongoing competitive advantage for the organization
  • Innovation is the implementation of creative ideas in order to add value to the firm—learn to trust your instincts

7. Customer Satisfaction

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Provide knock-your-socks-off service
  2. Think relationship first, transaction second
  3. Look constantly for new ways of adding value to the customer relationship

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Prepare unique responses to the three most common objections you receive
  • Anticipate customer needs by placing yourself in your customers’ shoes
  • Articulate what makes this company stand out from the competition
  • Exceed customer expectations by providing timely feedback and follow-up
  • Always put the client’s needs above your own

8. Diversity Orientation

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Respect others’ points of view and honor their opinions
  2. Nurture your network by finding common ground with peers and associates
  3. Demonstrate empathy and caring when dealing with your peers

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Seek out the opinions of others who at first glance may not have much in common with you
  • Raise your awareness in terms of reading other people’s feelings and moods
  • Don’t rush to judgment—wait until you’ve truly listened and fully heard another’s point of view
  • Put others’ needs ahead of your own, and expect them to respond in kind

9. Emotional Intelligence

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Seek to acquire new perspectives in order to broaden your view
  2. Empathize with others, knowing that no one does anything wrong given his or her model of the world
  3. Learn from your mistakes and simply view them as the cost of tuition in this school called the business world

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Separate the person from the problem, and withhold judgment
  • Don’t be so hard on yourself, and learn to forgive others by not bearing a grudge
  • Celebrate successes, and share the credit with others
  • Challenge yourself to learn and grow by focusing on building achievements into your resume

10. Ethics, Integrity, and Trust

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Treat others with dignity and respect at all times
  2. Demonstrate integrity and character in the face of overwhelming challenges
  3. Walk the talk of your convictions, and strive to remain consistent

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Confidentiality is critical; share information carefully and on a need-to-know basis
  • Never underpromise and overstay your welcome in someone else’s office
  • Always disclose the full picture of your intentions so that others understand your motives and end goals

11. Job Knowledge

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Keep abreast of trends and changes in the industry
  2. Don’t settle for marginal work, and ensure that your work stands out
  3. Consistently demonstrate mastery of basic concepts in your area of responsibility

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Craft checklists to structure your thoughts when looking at a business problem
  • Identify your company’s two biggest income streams and three largest expense drivers
  • Read the annual report to better understand the financial drivers and strategic initiatives that influence day-to-day operations
  • Nurture your network of industry contacts and career mentors
  • Always think issues through to their logical conclusion

12. Leadership

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Lead always by example
  2. See yourself as a model of sharing, cooperation, and goodwill
  3. Engender trust and respect among your teammates

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Be the first to volunteer to help others succeed
  • Share successes, and assume responsibility for errors and shortcomings
  • Increase your own sense of self-satisfaction by sharing your talents freely
  • Volunteer for leadership opportunities in industry and charity events

13. Listening Skills

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Realize that you can’t hear if you do all the talking
  2. Listen objectively and with an open mind
  3. Give whoever is talking your undivided attention

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Strive to maintain full eye contact and eliminate mental and physical distractions
  • Anticipate what the speaker is going to say in an effort to stay on top of the discussion

14. Motivation

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Always treat others with respect and dignity, and expect them to respond in kind
  2. Realize that if you love what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life
  3. Assume good intentions unless and until proven otherwise

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Demonstrate passion not only for your work but also for the coworkers whose lives you touch
  • Act with sincerity by placing others’ needs ahead of your own
  • Place yourself into situations where you can learn and simultaneously give back

15. Oral and Written Expression

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Realize that others place more value on the insightfulness of your questions than on the depth of your statements
  2. Clearly demonstrate a mastery of basic business writing techniques
  3. Don’t let grammar or usage errors distract from your message or from others’ impression of you

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Structure your key ideas into no more than three bullets per e-mail
  • Consistently use the spelling and grammar check feature before sending an e-mail
  • Avoid emoticons like smiley faces and instant messaging shorthand that others may not understand (e.g., LOL)
  • Reread all correspondence to ensure clarity before clicking the Send button
  • Avoid any perception of plagiarism by quoting sources accurately
  • Use simple language and delete words, sentences, or phrases that detract from your message
  • Learn to say no respectfully but firmly
  • Write in a natural and conversational tone
  • Master grammar essentials by distinguishing between commonly misused words like “effect/affect,” “insure/ensure,” “it’s/its,” “accept/except,” and “who/whom”

16. Organization and Planning Skills

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Plan your work, and work your plan
  2. Be careful to not overcommit your time or spread yourself too thin
  3. Appreciate the critical nature of well-honed organizational and planning skills

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Avoid any perception of being a seat-of-your-pants, reactive performer
  • Rely on your daily planner to divide your day into blocks of productive time
  • Maintain a workspace that is free from clutter and well organized

17. Personal Style

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Ask insightful and penetrating questions, not questions for questions’ sake
  2. Reinvent yourself in light of your department’s changing needs
  3. Look for new ways of adding value to your role over time

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Readily assume responsibility for things gone wrong
  • Always remain open to and encourage constructive criticism
  • Constantly look for opportunities to assume responsibilities beyond your job description
  • Always show a can-do attitude and a high level of enthusiasm and self-confidence
  • Acknowledge your own shortcomings rather than appear to be defensive

18. Problem-Solving Skills and Results Orientation

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Learn to break down problems into their component parts
  2. Look for small and incremental wins when challenged by larger problems
  3. Differentiate yourself from your peers by focusing on achievements and acquiring best-practice principles along the way

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Use checklists regularly to ensure that you’re consistently covering all the basics
  • Don’t sacrifice speed in solving problems by being overly methodical or risk averse
  • Ask more clarifying questions, but be careful to avoid asking repetitive questions that have already been addressed
  • Become more effective at recognizing repetitive trends in recurring problems
  • Always welcome creative suggestions from others
  • View impediments as solvable challenges

19. Productivity and Volume

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Avoid becoming too dependent on yourself
  2. Overcome internal barriers to productivity
  3. Plan your work, and work your plan

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Set mini project deadlines for yourself to monitor your own progress
  • Look always to collaborate, organize, prioritize, simplify, and reinforce
  • Focus on improving your personal productivity to create higher value results
  • Question always, “What are the things that keep me from performing at my best?”
  • Develop and strengthen your creative problem-solving abilities, including goal setting and influencing skills
  • Look always to see how you can help others to build credibility and goodwill across borders and boundaries

20. Professionalism and Appearance

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Focus on grooming and appearance standards as an opportunity to stand out as a rarity among your peers
  2. View yourself as the ultimate representative of your company in all you do
  3. Understand that good manners are always the very best place to start

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Dress for the interview, not for the job
  • Realize that you have only one chance to make a first impression
  • Look always to project a positive self-image
  • Arrive at work fully dressed with your hair done and makeup already on
  • Treat others with dignity and respect at all times

21. Quality

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Find an appropriate balance between quality and quantity
  2. Anticipate problems before they occur
  3. Strive always for maximum effectiveness and efficiency

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Recognize that rework is much more expensive than getting it right the first time
  • Offer two solutions for every challenge that you encounter
  • Ask quality questions, but avoid repetition of common things you should know

22. Safety

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Adhere to all company safety and security policy regulations
  2. Familiarize yourself with all safety instruments and resources
  3. Maintain a personal safety record beyond reproach

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Ensure that your equipment is in proper working order before initiating work
  • Always leave your work area clean and functional at the end of your shift
  • Maintain your personal tools in proper working order
  • Return all tools to their proper place when no longer in use

23. Self-Development

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Focus on your career rather than on your job
  2. Identify the future career path of your current position
  3. Align yourself with leaders who naturally mentor, grow, and develop their teams

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Research the dominant and growth-oriented companies in your industry in order to know the key players
  • Always assume responsibility for a problem, and see yourself as part of the solution
  • Ask insightful questions that add value to group discussions
  • Join alliance or affinity groups where you have things in common with peers
  • Train yourself to provide two solutions for each question you raise

24. Teamwork and Relationship-Building Skills

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Always look to bring out the best in others
  2. Assume good intentions unless and until proven otherwise
  3. Share best practices

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Place others’ needs ahead of your own, and have the greater good in mind
  • Listen actively, and always remain approachable and easy to do business with
  • Actively cooperate, and explain the rationale for your recommendations

25. Technical Skills

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Identify the critical technical skills that will help drive your career
  2. Strive always for continuous process improvement
  3. Benchmark best practices

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Constantly look for ways to strengthen your SKA (skills, knowledge, and abilities) in your chosen discipline
  • Be an early tester of new technology, and champion its introduction at work
  • Look for opportunities to teach others in an effort to strengthen your understanding and conceptualization of emerging technologies

26. Time-Management

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Visualize your goals to ensure achievement
  2. Focus on maximizing your time in an effort to work smarter, not harder
  3. Write your goals down to make them tangible and to amplify and crystallize their importance

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Focus on building achievements and accomplishments into your resume and annual self-review as a guiding principle of your own career development
  • Label priorities from A to F to help you focus on high-payoff activities
  • Frame your goals as positive and encouraging statements to motivate yourself
  • Review and update your to-do list on a daily basis before going home at night
  • Post your goals in visible places as a constant reminder of their importance
  • Focus on tying up all loose ends before closing out or submitting a project

27. Work-Life Balance

Top 3 goals for early career employees:

  1. Maintain a conscious balance between your work life and personal life
  2. Balance at-work demands with off-work priorities and interests
  3. Make the appropriate work-life choices that allow for achievement, creativity, and fun both at work and at home

Specific “stretch” tasks for early career employees:

  • Identify when it is appropriate to say no and when it isn’t
  • Don’t bring work home with you

What’s Next?

If preparing performance reviews for your employees looks like a hopeless search for the right words to say or write, you’re bound to save time and mental energy with our exciting, exclusive bundle!

Included in the Performance Review Prep Bundle are two must-have guides for any manager who gives a performance review from Chief Human Resources Officer Paul Falcone. Discover the shortcuts, suggested phrases, tips, scripts, and advice found within the pages of 2600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews and 2600 Phrases for Setting Effective Performance Goals. Learn more about the bundle and get HUGE savings on these books!

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Paul Falcone

Paul Falcone is CHRO of the Motion Picture & Television Fund in Woodland Hills, CA, and he's held senior-level HR positions with Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, and City of Hope.  

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