Advocating for Yourself at Work

Check out these quick and timely tips from GAA Career Coach Catherine Tuttle.

Self-advocacy: taking initiative to communicate your needs and wants to others in order to support your overall wellbeing. From a personal perspective, this may mean saying no to a volunteer engagement in order to protect your time and do things that truly spark joy. Professionally, this may be asking for a raise, a promotion, or the ability to take part in a professional development opportunity.

Whether you’re only a few years into your career or 20, advocating for yourself at work can feel uncomfortable and awkward. But relying on others to champion your best interests can lead to your feeling overlooked or underappreciated.

Self-advocacy also raises awareness of the problems you face and the resources needed to overcome them which sets you up for success short- and long-term. As an added bonus, self-advocacy at work promotes self-advocacy in other areas of your life, giving you the confidence necessary to go after your personal wants and needs. With purpose and practice, we can all become better advocates for ourselves and others.

Form genuine relationships: Forming collaborative and mutually beneficial relationships with co-workers across levels and functions is a great way to showcase your hard work and willingness to help the organization as a whole. It’s also a great way to build internal advocates which means less convincing when proving you deserve to have your request met.

Be ready to articulate your value: Before making your request, review your recent accomplishments (quantifying where you can). Even your boss can’t be expected to know all of your achievements, especially not off the top of their head, so remind them of your value by highlighting key wins. Then articulate how your request will enhance your success and add value to the team*.

Frame your request: Whatever you’re asking for, it’s important that you align your goals with the goals of the organization. In order to achieve your desired outcome, frame your request as a win-win for both you and the company. For example, if you are asking for additional help on a project, focus on the optimal outcome: the product gets finished quicker and will hit the market in advance of a competitors product launch; or the product will get broader exposure because you’ll have the ability to focus on strategic partnerships vs. tactical details. Whatever the request, make sure your goals and the goals of the organization are not mutually exclusive.

Practice makes perfect: When practicing interviewing skills with alumni, I always tell them they can think about how to answer questions and even write everything out, but practice answering questions out loud is the only way to get more comfortable and gain confidence. Often times the way things sound in our head and how they come out of our mouth are completely different. Interviewing can be nerve wracking but so can asking for a raise. Practice with a friend or even in front of the mirror, just practice!

* I understand that for many of us, the idea of highlighting your achievements feels like bragging – something we’ve been told not to do since we were children. That said, it’s important you find ways to become comfortable giving yourself kudos. Maybe that’s a monthly email update to your boss that can easily be shared with key stakeholders, or asking a client to share their positive experience with senior leaders. Owning your wins and sharing them confidently will be key to advancing throughout your career.