CAREER | October 16, 2020

Rise In Your Career Faster by Learning to Self Advocate

Take credit for your ideas. Share your successes. Talk about the job you want. These ideas may seem intimidating, boastful, or even embarrassing, however, it is one of the keys to fast career growth. I’m going to break it all down for you and I’ve got some great tips on how to overcome your fears of self-advocacy.

Exactly What does
Self-Advocacy Mean?

According to Google dictionary, self-advocacy is described as follows:


noun: self-advocacy

  1. the action of representing oneself or one’s views or interests.

That doesn’t sound so scary, right? We represent ourselves and our views all the time. If you have a social media account, you are already doing this by sharing pictures of yourself or things that you like or commenting with your personal ideas or thoughts on any post. Yes, this is a very passive way of doing so because you don’t actually have to face anyone and say the words out loud.

You may also find that you self-advocate in one of these ways without even realizing it:

  • When you go to the doctor and explain exactly what is bothering you and you make sure they are clear on the issue.
  • When you interview for a job and you share why you are the best fit for the job.
  • When you enter a contest to explain why your story, situation, or idea is the best and deserves to win.
  • When you break off a relationship because you deserve better.
  • When you attend a political or social rally because you feel that you or your community is not receiving the proper justice.

You have the ability and the skills to self-advocate, now it’s time to put those words and confidence into action for your career!

Why is it Important to Self-Advocate?

In my one on one consulting sessions, I teach Steph’s STAR Method to Rise, alongside mindset coaching. The “A” in STAR stands for Advocacy. It’s so important, it has its own category. Advocacy, within this method, includes self-advocacy but also; clarity on advocating vs demanding, how and when to advocate for others, and an even deeper dive into the logistics of self-advocacy. These are key elements in shifting your mindset from boasting or bragging to confidently sharing and presenting yourself.

Learning to self-advocate is important for three main reasons:

  1. If you are not confident enough to share what you have accomplished, others will be less likely to do so for you.
  2. Within medium to large organizations, you will need to stand out if you want to rise. Most large organizations have a competitive landscape. You will need to wave your arms wildly enough to be seen, and by that, I mean you will need to self-advocate.
  3. No-one can share your story as you can.

How Does Self-Advocacy Support Career Growth?

I have never received a significant raise or promotion that I have not asked for. With the right words, confidence, preparation, and timing, I successfully self-advocated for what I earned. I find through clients, friends, and family, this is often the case. Some companies are the exception and will have an outlined path for promotion and raises that you can expect to receive once hitting certain milestones. There are the amazing few who have a culture of recognition and reward through raises and promotions.

If you find yourself in the majority of companies who do not provide one of those set career tracks or have a culture of recognition and reward, self-advocacy is a must! Let’s take a closer look at the three main reasons why and explain how.

1. Confidence is King…or Queen.

Super STAR Tip: Create a list of everything that you have accomplished within your current job that:

  1. was above and beyond what was required
  2. was outside of the scope of your current job responsibilities which added value to your department or company. (Keep this list as a reference for promotion conversations, performance reviews, resume building, and interview talking points.)

If you have a list of even 2 or 3 things, that may be enough to approach your boss for a raise or promotion, depending on the size and scope of the accomplishments. Why wait around for an annual review or for someone to quit or for a spot to open up? Seize your moment to share what you have done and feel confident about it! If you speak about your accomplishments as if they are no big deal, that is how the message will be received.

In order to help you gain confidence in what you have accomplished, take your list to a trusted friend or family member. Have them enthusiastically read your list to you as if THEY had accomplished those items and they are excited to share them with you. As you listen to your friend or family member, do you feel proud of them or excited for them? If this was a real-life situation and they were sharing these things with you, what would be your reaction? Those feelings of pride, excitement, happiness that you may feel for others, should be felt for yourself. Think and speak about what you have accomplished as if you were telling your spouse or partner about how great your friend is doing at work…except it’s YOU! Be proud of yourself and what you have done!

2. “No matter what, you’ve got to strut!” The Nutty Professor

Above, I referenced waving your arms wildly enough to be seen. Whether that is physically or metaphorically, it must be done if you want to rise within a competitive landscape.

In the movie The Nutty Professor, the main character is Sherman Klump, a science professor who has been battling weight loss. He creates a formula to morph his body into a fit and vibrant man, a character of himself that he calls Buddy Love. Sherman is shy, not confident, and is bullied by his boss, the Dean. Buddy Love is outgoing, overly-confident, and arrogant but does not allow himself to be bullied by his boss. You have two extremes, neither of which will be successful as they are, but one thing Buddy teaches Sherman by end of the movie is the confidence to strut, no matter what. That is the key!

Finding that confidence to stand out in the crowd to make your mark is how you will rise in a competitive environment. Once you have the confidence, you just need to say the words. Each work environment is unique and key decision-makers will differ, so your timing and how you share your accomplishments cannot be stated in a general manner, however here are a few *times it will be key for you to self-advocate:

  1. During your performance review – have your list ready!
  2. At team or company meetings when your project or task is being discussed.
  3. If someone else is receiving credit for your accomplishments, even inadvertently, you must speak up. This can often happen when senior leadership recognizes your direct boss or “the team” when in reality, it was your hard work or ideas that made the project a success.

A couple of other opportunities to self-advocate could be during a conversation at a company gathering such as a holiday party or in a thank you email to your boss or department head at the completion of a project. With the right words and praise for the opportunity to add value to the company, you can really stand out while also not bragging.

*You can learn more about timing conversations within this article Timing: A Career Game Changer

3. Tell Your Side of the Story – Self-Advocate!

If you have ever read a captivating autobiography, you’ll understand the impact of someone’s story from their own perspective versus someone who believes they know what a person is all about. No one can tell your story like you! Your words will be more impactful and you have the opportunity to frame the story when you tell it yourself!

I’ve seen first hand how someone with great intentions shares the accomplishments of one of their team members in a way that acknowledges what they have done but does not do justice to their hard work. For example, here is a manager telling his department head about his team member, Molly, and her accomplishments.

Manager: “We secured the Brookside deal. Molly was able to lock in a 3-year contract. I know they were a tough client for her but we managed to give them a good deal while still hitting our financial target.”

Here is how the story may have been different from Molly’s point of view.

Molly: “After working through the weekend to put together a proposal that was mutually beneficial, I was able to lock in Brookside for a 3-year deal. They shared that it was my customer service and attentiveness to their requests that ultimately sealed the deal since our proposal was not the cheapest. They appreciated my commitment to their service needs and I have built a great relationship with their business manager. I am thrilled that my hard work and relationship building with them over the last year has resulted in a three year deal that will support our team’s financial goals. It’s such a great feeling to help grow the company through this partnership with Brookside.”

I have seen the term “we” lumped into many conversations that had very little to do with “we”. Yes, there may be times when “we” is appropriate when speaking about a team accomplishment but managers will do this as a way of gaining their own recognition in what their employees have done. Whether it is intentional or not is irrelevant. When you can frame the story yourself you no longer have to worry about if your accomplishments are getting lost in the “we.” It’s your story – tell it!

At a loss for words?

I know self-advocating can be tough but you absolutely CAN DO IT! However, if you are feeling a loss for words, are struggling with body language, timing, or how to present yourself confidently, I can help! As a Career Consultant and Mindset Transformation Coach, I work one on one with clients to address the blocks that are holding them back from rising using my STAR Method to Rise. Connect with me on social or setup a Possibilities Call to share your story and learn if my consulting and coaching are right for you.

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