The Importance of Being Your Own Advocate at Work|
Recent college grads are used to assuming that everyone has her best interests top of mind. Parents always want to lead you in the right direction, and professors are paid to make sure you’re on track. However, in the workplace, there isn’t a person whose main priority is ensuring you’re taken care of.
This is not to say that managers and directors are out to get you; it’s just simply not their responsibility to figure out where you want to go and what you need to do to get there. As a result, it is extremely important to be your own advocate at work.
Unfortunately, self-advocacy is often an issue women struggle with: Am I too pushy? Will I seem like a bitch? Although it’s intimidating, it is possible to speak up for yourself in a professional way that leads to positive results. For example, I realized my first job out of college was irrelevant in the company and not in line with the track I wanted to be on. I couldn’t sit there and wait for my manager to realize I wasn’t learning and hope that maybe she would change my position, I had to advocate for myself. This required me figuring out not only where I wanted to go within the company, but also what steps I had to take to get there. I knew I couldn’t ask for a promotion right away; I had to align myself with the right projects and people to make it clear that I was capable of the job. In addition, I had to speak up in a professional way that made my goals and objectives clear to my manager. (Remember, mangers aren’t mind readers!) From this, I was able to land a promotion in four months at my first job. Here’s what I learned along the way.
A Self-Advocate’s Cheat Sheet to Success
1. Self assess: Are you in a position that allows you to learn the necessary skills to get you to the next step? Clearly define what your career goals are and what skills need to be gained or steps that need to be taken to get there.
2. Brainstorm: If you’re not learning the skills you need, jot down a list of ideas of ways you can acquire those skills while still fulfilling your current role. For example, can you shadow someone whose position you might be interested in? Does your office have workshops you can partake in that foster self-development?
3. Take action: With your clearly defined goals in mind and your list of ideas in hand, try to schedule a 10-minute meeting with your manager. By going to the meeting prepared, you’re not asking for favors and it’s likely that your manager will be impressed with your proactive thinking — and go-getter attitude!
4. Get creative: If a meeting with your manager is not possible, figure out other ways you can acquire the skills you need. Approach that certain someone you would like to shadow directly. It’s surprising how much people truly enjoy helping other people. Again, he or she will be impressed with your determination and eagerness to learn.
No matter what, the key is to be proactive and make it simple for your manager to help by clearly defining your goals and actionable steps to get there. With this, you can feel ready to take on the professional world and be a well-respected self-advocate!
Photos courtesy of Kate Spade
Have you had to be your own advocate at work? Tell us about it in the comments!