The days of being a hard worker and hoping that someone will notice your efforts and give you a raise are gone. That ship has sailed. Whether you are in a corporate environment and you work for someone else, are a contract employee, or have your own business; you have to be able to advocate for yourself. Why? Because if you don’t ask, the answer is always no.
Advocacy for self or for others is a way to show public support for someone or something. It’s a way to represent yourself or others in a way that helps you or them to advance. Think about it, how many commercials you see for non-profits or other causes that until you saw it, you had no idea it existed or that it needed your support. Your self-advocacy is the same way, many people don’t know your full potential until you bring it into the light.
People don’t know what you want. They don’t know what you are capable of or what you are passionate about unless you tell them. Self-advocacy directly ties to the leadership positions you can achieve, the money you will make, the clients you will serve, and the influence you will have in your industry.
Advocating for yourself can be hard. We are taught not to “brag or boast” about ourselves; that it’s arrogance, but arrogance has nothing to do with it. It’s educating others on what you bring to the table. It’s explaining how you can be of good service and make a contribution to them or the organization. You have gifts and if you deprive the world of who you are and what you know, that’s a travesty.
So how do you do it? How do you advocate for yourself and others? I’ve got three easy steps.
Step up. Speak up. And, Show up!
How to Step Up.
Stepping up starts with your attitude, and please know that your attitude is a choice. You choose to step up and step out of your comfort zone in work and life. You move toward stretch assignments. You work toward taking your business into a bigger arena. As scary as it can be, you do it and figure it out along the way.
There is a report from Hewlett Packard where they were intentionally trying to get more women into management and it wasn’t happening. What they found was that if men were 60 percent competent in their abilities for a promotion, they would apply. Women, however, needed to be 100 percent competent in their abilities for the role before they would apply. They were holding themselves back and not giving themselves an opportunity to stretch, learn, and figure it out. Consider how many things you have learned throughout your life. Walking, talking, driving, math, and the list goes on. As a matter of fact, make a list of as many things as you can think of. I’ll wait.
The point is, you already have the ability to learn and figure it out. You’ve done it thousands of times throughout your lifetime. You can do it again, intentionally, and move forward in your leadership and life.
How to Speak Up.
Speaking up is necessary for you to get what you want because people don’t always see the obvious. It needs to be brought into their awareness and the most effective way to do that is to tell them. Tell your clients what you offer and how you can make their life easier. The “build it and they will come” mentality is a flawed business development strategy.
Have regular meetings where you can update your boss on your outcomes. It’s not about you as it is what you factually accomplished. That might be a little easier to convey. Communicating your strengths and expertise is critical and you don’t want to downplay those. You can also physically track your accomplishments so that you can factually demonstrate your progress when it comes time for a performance review or to step into a new role.
Speaking up is also offering your opinion. You have one, why not share it? Perhaps someone else in the meeting has shared a similar opinion; acknowledge them and contribute your spin on the topic.
How to Show Up.
Showing up is about how you are viewed literally and figuratively in your role or business. It is your professional presence and what you convey with how you hold your physical body and also what you put on it. Having confident physiology and dressing for the position you want are key elements of how you show up. If you want more on this topic, dive into Dr. Amy Cuddy’s work or the book Executive Presence by Sylvia Ann Hewlett.
Just as important is the network and relationships you build. Asking for introductions, getting to know the people, whether potential clients or executives, that can help get you what you want. It’s also not a one-and-done sort of connection. It’s taking the time to build trust and rapport. It’s creating a reputation so people know who you are, what you bring to your business, and how you can contribute.
What are some of the ways that you can start stepping up, speaking up, and showing up in a bigger way? What steps can you share with others to help advocate for them?
Related: Why It’s Important to Celebrate Wins at Work as a Woman Leader