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Getting A Year End Bonus: Preparing In Advance (Pt 1)

This is part one of two post on tips for getting a year end bonus. Part two deals with if you are not prepared in advance.

It doesn't get much better than receiving a big fat bonus after you've worked hard all year. But this year, the process can be particularly anxiety ridden, given this economy and given that employees are all after those ever dwindling bonus dollars.

Most large companies require that you set your critical few objectives in January, and then record progress mid-year and end of year. Here is the best way to manage this process.

#1: Review your critical objectives:
What were your top three priorities in 2008? Nothing brings in bonus dollars like clarity and transparency. Ensure that your objectives are tied to the goals of your manager, your department and your company. For example: did you bring in new money? Did you win new accounts? Did you decrease errors? What was accomplished by that cross functional team you were a part of? Tie your results to the bottom line!

#2: Highlight the deadlines you met:
Set realistic deadlines and do what you say you’ll do. Under-promise and over-deliver and those bonus dollars will come!

#3: Constantly check your accomplishments to date:
Only Santa checks his list twice ... you need to check it every quarter to ensure you are on track. You should have scheduled a mid-year review but since that is past, concentrate on the year end. Remember, there are many things you can't control (the economy, your CEO's decisions, etc.) so control what you can. Make the necessary adjustments to complete your objectives.

#4: Highlight how you have raised the status quo:
Few of us brainstorm on a regular basis to make constant improvements at work. Perhaps you led a brainstorming session or improvised on your own. Highlight this during your performance review. Did you format a report in a better way? Did you leverage the work done in another department?

#5: Pass things by your mentor, before meeting with your manager:
There are many benefits to having mentors: 1) you learn from other's mistakes, 2) you share your thoughts / ideas in a safe environment, 3) in tough economic times, your mentor can advise you since they have probably been through this before. Mentors help you navigate your career and they watch your back and this can pay off down the line.

If you've followed these steps, your year-end meeting should be positive. Your bonus should be as good as it can be because you've planned well, you've constantly innovated, and you've gotten exceptional advice along the way.

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Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio is a career coach and co-founder of SixFigureStart and has worked for the bluest of blue chips for the past 25 years. Her companies include Citigroup, Pfizer, and most recently as the COO of Campus Recruiting for Merrill Lynch. Connie also co-authors a career blog for Vault.com.

Comments? Send them to executivecareers@cnbc.com