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I am new to working in a professional environment. I have just completed one year in my current software development role.

I am entitled to a performance review and I think one year in is a good time to ask(I have just gone past that mark last week). I say 'ask' because nobody at the company has mentioned it and I have not heard any of my colleagues talk about potentially taking one.

Does anyone go into a performance review without the intention of getting, or at least discussing, a raise or their current salary, or could a person solely want to get feedback on performance? Should I be going in assuming that this will come up for discussion? Or, am I way too early to be even thinking about this and should I just focus on feedback, beyond that of a pull request/code review, that will make me a better programmer? Or, should I be even asking for a performance review when nobody else even seems to care?

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    It depends on what the "policy" is at your workplace. Some places give raises yearly, some give them "when earned". In every performance review I've gone to, I've ended up talking about a raise at least, if not getting one, but that doesn't mean you will or should expect it. Go in with an open mind. 1 year isn't too early to expect a raise, most companies give raises after a year of service if they believe you deserve one. – New-To-IT Nov 23 '15 at 14:58
  • @JoeStrazzere Well, the company is pretty much one year old(I have been there form the start). The only place I have seen or heard 'performance review' mentioned is in the employee handbook. Although, my Lead and CTO are very approachable, I have not heard anything about a review from anyone. – atw Nov 23 '15 at 15:05
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    This might be a helpful reference to you – Dawny33 Nov 23 '15 at 15:17
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    At my co. at least, the performance review and raises have very little in common. You have to go through a thorough process, involving obtaining performance assessments, to qualify for a raise. Performance review is just a 1-5 number they give – Adel Nov 23 '15 at 17:51
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I went through the same phase as you. In a nicely ordered world performance reviews - which most companies claim they hold - would actually happen, and be really helpful! The sad truth is that most often the time for them comes and goes, and no one bats an eye about it other than you.

First of all, I'd like to explain why a performance review can be beneficial:

1. Feedback

In a perfect world your manage/team leader is paying attention to your performance, work quality, work ethic, etc. They want to guide you along your path to becoming a better developer, and one day rise to their own level. They periodically look over your code, and provide some mentor-ship.

A review is the perfect arena for an honest face-to-face conversation on how you're handling your duties, and the areas you should improve in.

Last but not least, a copy of a positive review can be used to build your portfolio for your next job hunt.

2. Timing

The one year mark is perfect for such a review. At this point you're familiar with your role, and are probably getting comfortable with your routine, although you probably still have much to learn. If you have any bad habits that you need to break THIS is the time to bring them to your attention.

And now for the bad news:

1. Few people care, or have the time

I've worked 3 co-ops and 2 full-time jobs as a developer: I have not run into ONE manager/team-leader/senior dev who has given me useful feedback about my processional development. Don't get me wrong, I've had people show me neat programming tricks, or teach me valuable skills, but I have never actually had a code review, or a formal evaluation. Why is that?

Well, most managers - especially in a small to medium sized business - simply don't have the time. A lot of these companies don't have a good process in place for this sort of thing to take place. In a large company reviews might be a very serious part of the manager's duties, and he might himself be evaluated on how he performs those reviews. But unless that is that case few people seem to take the time and energy to generate more "paperwork" (as they see it).

2. They are not interested in your advancement

Another sad truth: generally no one cares about you other than yourself. Take a look at your company hierarchy: Does it seem like there's room to grow vertically? What I mean to say is, if you were to work there for 5+ years:

  • What are your chances of promotion to senior dev, or team-leader?
  • What are the chances that you'd actually be doing the same work - now a mindless routine - using 95% the same technologies?

Again, this is based on my own experience, but most jobs fall into the second category.

The fact is that most companies don't think they need, or want to deal with, some super-genius innovator. They want you to do your job, period. As long as things are ticking along they have no motivation in investing to adopt new technologies, rewrite old, poorly written code-bases, properly redesign databases, etc. It's too much work!

You have to accept that the world is not as neat, efficient, and, frankly, logical, as we were lead to believe. Instead, it seems to be held together with spit and duct-tape. But somehow it's still ticking along.

So now, for the real answers you've been asking for:

1. Getting a review

I think now you might have a better understanding of why your review has not been forthcoming, and will, in fact, never happen unless you push for one. Be tactful in asking for it, because chance are that your manager/team-leader was not planning on giving you one, and may see it as a bothersome nuisance more than an opportunity to guide their newest dev.

Also keep in mind that only mentioning it in passing, or while waiting for a cup of coffee in the break room might not be taken seriously. Instead, ask for a short meeting with your manager. Formally request a review. Say something along the lines of:

Hey, boss. My one year mark is rapidly approaching, and I'm interested in getting some feedback from you, and/or the team-leader (whatever applied to you). I know everyone is terribly busy, but I would really like to sit down with the two of you for a formal review.

Always keep in mind that you might, even then, be ignored, or have your request rejected for some reason (Oh, we're so busy right now, I don't think we'll have time. Don't worry though, you're doing great, just keep up the good job - quote my former/current managers).

2. Asking for a raise

This will depend on a whole bunch of factors. Some companies have set times of the year when they hand out raises - they might be at the end of the fiscal year, for example - and they will not discuss monetary issues at any other time.

Second, whenever you ask for a raise you have to show you've earned it. Sure, you've been there a year, and you've learned a lot, but that doesn't automatically entitle you to a raise. Instead, approach the situation like so:

I have come a long way since when I started, and now perform my duties much more speedily. I have a good record of closing cases/tasks, often in shorter time-frames than expected. I have, additionally, been performing the following duties: x, y, z. I feel I've grown in this role, and that I'd like to discuss a possible pay increase.

If your boss asks you for an amount, 5% if probably a decent percentage to ask for - a "typical" raise is along the lines of 3%. You won't get more unless you jump ship and switch jobs, in which case you might negotiate a better figure (that's what I did - it might have been another 3 years at my old job to get my current salary - probably 4 or 5)

If your request is refused, don't take it personally. The company assigns certain budgets to each department, and the junior dev will get the least anyway - they are more interested in keeping the senior devs happy.

If you really want that raise to be approved, focus on bringing value to the company. Close cases/tasks as quickly as possible. Try to identify areas where some internal tool/project could be improved, and suggest changes, or offer to work on them at lunch. It's not exactly brown-nosing, but gaining visibility, and standing out from the crowd is highly beneficial.

3. Timing of asking for a raise

A review is a good time to ask for a raise, but only in certain cases. For example, if you get a review, and your boss points out various flaws in your performance that's a really bad time to mention that you want more money.

If the review is positive, then the end of the review is exactly the time to bring that conversation about. Say your boss is happy with your performance, and the review is coming to an end. He hasn't mentioned anything about a possible raise. Politely, but firmly swing the conversation around:

I'm very happy to hear that you're pleased with my performance. I do feel that I've come a long way since last year, and am glad that you agree. With that in mind, I'd like to bring up the topic of a pay increase. (maybe wait for a reaction - you might get shut down very quickly at this point. If you don't, continue to list your accomplishments: ) I feel that my performance has greatly improved over the last 6 months. I always close my cases on time, I've proposed code improvements, and worked on improving our tools in my own time. I respectfully request that a pay raise be taken into consideration.

You may ask for a raise even if the review does not take place - the most likely scenario. If you get brushed off with words of reassurance (along the lines of: oh yea, you're doing great), then wait until the end of your year (remind people with some friendly comments as the date approaches) and once again request to speak with your boss.

Bring up the points as I've outlined above:

Boss, my first year mark has come and gone. I feel that I've grown a lot in this role, and the feedback I've gotten from you and the senior dev has been positive. I've always met my targets, and strived to improve both my skills, and the code-base, whenever I've had a chance. With that in mind, I'd like to discuss the possibility of a pay bump. (take your cues on what else to say from above)

Always keep in mind that one year is still pretty junior, and you may get neither a review, or a raise.

Good luck, and I hope my rant-ish answer helps!

  • Agreed, the point about timing is really important. You can't ask for a raise if your boss just told you things aren't gong so great. But right after he gave you a flawless review, it's almost a guarantee that the boss has to agree, or at least really nicely put you on hold. And you have perfect leverage, at such a point, to start applying elsewhere ( if you desire it) – Adel Nov 23 '15 at 17:48
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    @Adel - in my experience most managers are experts at putting anything "on hold". Money is always a tricky issue. Unfortunately, since the OP is so inexperienced I think that quitting his first job after the first year is probably not the best choice - it will look odd to have quit his job so soon, and he won't have enough experience to really impress a new employer. Sadly, I think this is one of those situations where even if he doesn't get what he wants he should stick with it for another year or so, for the sake of his resume. – AndreiROM Nov 23 '15 at 17:51
  • @AndreiROM - True, let's say 2 years then – Adel Nov 23 '15 at 17:54
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    @Adel - that's exactly the timing and reason why I quit my first job. All that company wanted was a drone that did the same job day in and day out. Needless to say, they had a very high turn-over rate. I actually interviewed after my first year, and found that most recruiters/managers were a little skeptical about my experience (1 yr with a company is barely long enough to get comfortable, really). At 2 years I got a raise barely worthy of the name. Soon thereafter I was gone, and I found that 2 years on the resume looks a LOT better. – AndreiROM Nov 23 '15 at 17:58
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    @adrianmann - you situation is little trickier because the company is a start-up. Very often in that sort of environment people are overworked and underpaid, but stick with it because they hope of great things to come. It can also be a great company to gain experience in. Sadly, that's also, typically, the most chaotic type of workplace, and lack a lot of managerial structure that more experienced companies might have. When you ask for your raise always focus on examples of your work bringing VALUE. If you do the same work, at the same pace as a year ago, you have no leg to stand on. Good luck – AndreiROM Nov 23 '15 at 18:59

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