How to advocate for yourself on the job
No one knows you better than you. Speak up for yourself, your ideas—and what you don’t know.
The art of self-advocacy is crucial to your success in all areas of life, but especially in the workforce. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re well into your career journey, it’s important to make sure your voice is heard so you can amplify your accomplishments and get the help you need to improve on your weaknesses.
“In an ideal world, we’d all have bosses who are personally invested in our career development, but the reality is that many managers don’t have the resources or desire to do so,” says Amanda Augustine, career expert for TopResume. That’s why, she says, if you want to develop your career path, you must take the first steps and be your own advocate.
Advocating for yourself is an essential part of your career trajectory, agrees Alexandra Phillips, founder of Alexandra Phillips Consulting. “It can be the difference between years upon years in the same role (with salary compression) or a clear path to the C-suite,” she says.
If you want to ensure that your career is always advancing in the right direction, here are some strategies to get started with self-advocacy.
Know your strengths and weaknesses
Before you can advocate for yourself, you must be confident in the value you bring to your work, says Augustine. “Take stock of your strengths—both soft skills and hard skills,” she says.
Performing a self-assessment can be challenging, though, since it can be hard to pinpoint your own best and worst qualities. Getting feedback from people you trust can help.
“Target five people whose opinion you value, and then ask them what they think your strengths and weaknesses are,” says Phillips. Be open-minded to their insights and criticisms. “There will most likely be some overlap in other people’s impressions of you,” adds Phillips.
From there, identify any areas of development you need to work on. Once you do that, you can come up with an action plan, whether it’s to seek some training, or take on new projects to help develop a skill set.
Know your value to the organization
Related to your strengths and weaknesses is figuring out what your role is in your current place of work. “Think strategically how your individual skills and personality type can help achieve institutional and organizational goals,” says Tom Ward, executive director of Adelphi University's Center for Career and Professional Development. Ultimately, you should always be able to pinpoint the value that you add to your company. Are you a problem-solver? Do you possess the necessary technical skills to lead projects? Are you adept at building high-achieving and efficient teams? Do you come up with creative ideas?
Even if it’s hard to quantify your contributions, such as if you’re on a creative team versus someone who sells products, it’s important to know your worth and be able to articulate that.
Work on your reputation
It’s not enough for just you to know how great you are—you need the people around you to see it, too. “Earn a reputation as a doer who is willing to serve the team tirelessly, ethically, and responsibly,” says Ward. Or, maybe you can make your mark as an innovator who possesses a strong ability to shift existing resources to address burgeoning opportunities and challenges, he adds.
Being recognized as a person who gets things done is an important aspect of self-advocacy.
Tout those accomplishments
No matter how hard you work, waiting for people to just recognize your accomplishments doesn’t always pan out. That’s why it’s totally OK to let the people around you know about your hard work. “If you consistently deliver ahead of schedule—call it out. If you stayed late to finish a deck so your team looks good—let your supervisor know,” says Phillips.
Of course, there’s a fine line between subtly tooting your own horn and full-out bragging. “Admittedly, this can be a precarious tightrope walk,” says Phillips. “If you talk about yourself 24/7, it will backfire on you. But on the flip side, if you don’t own the extra work you do, then how will anyone know about it?”
Ward agrees. “No one will be a better advocate and trumpet your successes better than you.”
Be a team player
Although it’s important to focus on your own career-building goals, you can’t do it in a vacuum. Building genuine, respectful, and productive relationships with your supervisor, your team members, and your colleagues in other departments is one of the best ways to get some recognition for your work.
“If you find yourself saying ‘teamwork’ a great deal when you are complimented for your work, you probably positively being noticed by influencers both inside and outside the organization,” says Ward.
To do this, actively participate and seek leadership opportunities on internal committees, professional associations, and community organizations.
Evolve your self-advocacy
The opportunities you seek will be vastly different in your first job than they will be later on down the career road—and your self-advocacy strategies must change accordingly.
“Instead of advocating to be included in a company-training initiative, you may be vying for opportunities to chair a program or initiative, mentor junior members at the company, or become a board member in the corporate or nonprofit arena,” says Augustine. “The further along you are in your career, the greater your access to resources. Make sure you continue to build your network at every opportunity.”
Recognizing your best strengths and talking about your contributions, being a dependable part of every team you’re on, and surrounding yourself with mentors and a strong support network are all forms of self-advocacy that you should be doing on the regular. These actions will help reveal your value and move the needle on career advancement. Could you use some help with that? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can sign up to receive career advice and job search tips sent straight to your inbox to help you stay on top of your professional development. The more you put in, the better the results.
Think of it like working out, says Phillips. “You will only see the results if you do it.”