Author: Mike Scaletti
The unfortunate truth is that too many people out there will take you for granted even if they are not actively trying to take advantage of you. In order to minimize that and keep your morale and mental state healthy, you need to learn how to be your own best advocate. No matter what stage of your career that you are at, being able to make your voice heard and your time is respected is critical to your success. Ideally, everyone in management will be personally invested in the success and growth of their employees, but the reality is that is often not the case.
The path to career success is paved with self-advocacy. Here are some tips to help you advocate for yourself successfully.
Practice Self Knowledge
Being able to advocate for yourself requires knowing what you are working with. This means understanding your strengths and weaknesses so that you can accurately present the former and work to improve and compensate for the latter. Take time to self-assess and work to figure those out, but also remember that it is often difficult to get an accurate image of yourself without bias. Turn to the people you trust.
Identify five colleagues whose opinions you value and have them provide feedback. Ask them to help you identify your strengths and weaknesses. It can be really difficult to not get defensive when other people point out weaknesses, but it is vital that you take that feedback in the spirit that it is offered. Odds are that when you analyze all of the feedback you receive there will be areas of overlap. That's what you are looking for.
Once you identify them, you can come up with a plan to address your weaknesses, while feeling more confident standing up for your strengths.
Identify Your Value
You have value. If you didn't you wouldn't be employed. That's just a fact. The key is to identify and quantify that value. Look at the goals and targets of your organization and then identify what it is you bring to the table that helps meet those goals.
It is vital to know the value you bring to your company, and even more vital to truly believe it. That will allow you to articulate it and stand up for your value.
Point Out Your Accomplishments
Hopefully, people will recognize and acknowledge your work accomplishments without you having to tout them yourself, but being your own advocate means making sure that recognition happens. Point out the extra hours you've worked. Make it clear that you are reliable and get your projects done ahead of schedule or under budget. Any time you bring extra value to your company, make sure your boss knows about it.
Be Willing to Say No
This is probably the single most important part of being your own best advocate. At a certain point you will have enough, or even too much, work on your plate to keep you fully occupied, and yet someone will ask you to do more. That is when it is okay to say no. It is okay for you to say that you are swamped, or overwhelmed, or have too much going on.
The fear is always that you will be labeled as "not a team player" or "difficult to work with", but the bottom line is if you are accomplishing the work that you DO have the band with for at a high level, people will understand when you say you can't take on anything else, and most bosses would rather you complete fewer projects well than more projects at a lower quality of work.