How to Be Your Own Best Advocate

While specific job skills and talent play a huge role in workplace success, a less talked about skill – self-advocacy – can lead to greater job satisfaction and higher compensation.

Self-advocacy is simply the ability to assert what you need to make your work experience the best it can be and to move your career forward. That can mean rectifying a situation that impacts your work negatively or asking for a positive change such as a promotion, better pay or more job responsibility.

Many people have a hard time advocating for themselves because they think it will mean having difficult or awkward conversations, or even confrontations. That’s rarely the case with a little planning and practice to keep your conversation focused.

  • Be confident. The first step is to believe you deserve what you’re asking for. Being confident sets the stage for a more productive conversation because it shows you’re serious. This is especially important when asking for a raise or promotion.
  • Be specific and concise. Have your facts ready before initiating the conversation. Keep it simple and concise. If there is a problem in your workplace, state what is happening (or not happening) that makes it difficult to do your job; the ramifications to your project, your department and possibly your customers; and your suggestions for rectifying the problem.  If you are asking for a raise, a promotion or a new position, state your past successes and why you deserve to be recognized with more pay or responsibilities. Give specific examples and take credit for doing good work.
  • Keep emotions in check. You only have control over your emotions during the conversation. Stay calm and focused, even if the other party is not able to do so. It enhances your ability to move the conversation in a more positive direction. Avoid “blame” language. For example, if your boss is not communicating information from top management, don’t say his or her lack of communication is a roadblock. Instead, suggest that having more information is necessary for you to carry out your specific duties and contribute to the project’s or department’s goals.
  • Suggest solutions or next steps. Don’t let the conversation falter after you’ve stated your case. In the example above, you could suggest that the boss call a quick, touch-base meeting (or send an e-mail) following all management meetings to convey information that staff will need to do their jobs more effectively. If your supervisor turns down your request for a raise or promotion, ask what you could do to move toward that outcome, such as taking classes to learn new skills or accepting new job responsibilities.

Advocating for yourself can be scary, but consider the consequences of not speaking up. Putting up with negative work conditions or not being recognized for your performance can lead to physical and emotional stress, job dissatisfaction, and decreased motivation. Each time you advocate for your needs, whether small or large, the easier it becomes.