How to advocate for yourself at work
Advocating for yourself is a valuable and active part of growing in your career—it’s not just reserved for when you feel frustrated or under-appreciated. Advocating for yourself means identifying and seizing opportunities, adopting a new tool, or proposing different ways to work.
It also means being comfortable with showcasing your accomplishments at high-intent moments (e.g. performance reviews) and low-intent moments (e.g. I updated this spreadsheet with my research). In other words, you’re able to share your contribution and value with others without feeling like you’re bragging or being self-congratulatory.
In partnership with The Newsette, we’ve collected the most helpful responses from their readers on the question: How do you advocate for yourself at work?
- Ask directly for what you want
By speaking up! If there’s a new role, team or project I want to work on–I voice it. This has helped so much in making sure I’m getting challenged and never bored at work. I’m always looking for resources through my company to learn new relevant skills. If I don’t see something I want to learn about, I’ll ask my supervisor to see if it’s something they can provide for me. I want to make myself as valuable as possible. Asking for what you want starts with identifying what you want. Setting personal goals for yourself will give you clarity into those areas of opportunity. You’ll be prepared to raise your hand and take on a new project or propose something new because you’ll be able to sense the need.
- Keep track of your accomplishments
I advocate for myself by always keeping a running list of projects I’m currently working on AND a list of projects I’ve recently completed. This way if someone asks, I can show what I already accomplished during the week, and also what I’m striving for in the next. I keep a paper trail documenting every single check-in I have with my manager–each week, we sit down and share one great thing and one area for improvement that I have shown over the past week–no exceptions. Then, come review time, I can just pull all the feedback from our check-ins, and know what I made improvements on. This has been a game changer! I keep a running list of my accomplishments and bring them to performance reviews or 1:1 meetings with my manager. As an introvert, I find it hard to speak up for myself, but keeping a list helps by giving me great talking points!
Helpful tools like Trello and Managed by Q’s Employee Helpdesk make it easy for you to track and organize all of your work. If you don’t use software to stay on track, look back at your work calendar or reference your notes. You’ll be prepared to advocate for yourself when you have your past accomplishments and future goals in front of you
(Bonus: The Employee Helpdesk also gives you detailed metrics and reporting so you can further advocate for yourself by providing your boss or manager with concrete numbers.)
- Share your opinions—honestly
I always speak honestly and openly when my boss asks for my opinions. If I sugarcoat it or keep it in I know there will never be change, so I make sure to voice my thoughts regardless of what the outcome could be. Nine times out of ten they appreciate my ideas and try to solve whatever the issue might be.
Articulating your point of view to your team and/or boss is so important for gaining confidence and proving that you have ideas. If you feel nervous speaking up, try starting small and adding one comment or opinion per meeting.
The more you contribute to the vision of your team and role, the more your manager and teammates will take notice of you. This gives you leverage to advocate for yourself, your needs, and your professional dreams.
- Seek feedback
I build relationships and trust with my colleagues, so I can get a better sense of what I’m good at and to gain feedback from multiple perspectives. This helps me get a better understanding of my performance and better advocate for myself, whether it’s asking for a shift in my role, an increase in pay, or a promotion.
Feedback is a gift—we all have room for improvement. Some areas we’re already aware of and some are completely out of our field of vision. Feedback provides the chance to uncover the parts of our work or behaviors we have that are strong or weak so we can lean into or adjust accordingly.
Regularly seeking out feedback indicates that you’re open to learning—an invaluable quality all managers hope to find in their direct reports.
- Negotiate when necessary
I am young and just starting out in the workforce. I currently have an internship at a company I really like but want it to move to a full time role. When I realized that not much progress was being made to get a full time role approved, I started applying elsewhere. I got a job offer from a different organization and told my current employer about the offer. When they realized I was wanted elsewhere, they bumped up my intern hourly rate to match the salary of the other job offer and really got the ball rolling to approve a full time position. It is not anyone else’s job to stand up for you in the workforce–if they do that is great, but if they don’t, you need to do it yourself and know your worth. I was able to get a raise as an intern which is unheard of in my company so I am happy I advocated for myself and my work–it paid off!
Negotiating at work sounds like a scary concept, but in most scenarios you have more room to negotiate than you think. Whether you’re asking for a raise, promotion, or budget to spend on a new tool or class, show up prepared. Gather all the information you think you need and try to anticipate your boss’ questions so you have answers in the moment.
- Find a mentor at work
I tend to develop a closer relationship with someone at my office senior to me, who’s not my boss. This always happens naturally and over time, but I found it’s always helpful to have her perspective to talk to and ask more direct questions about our office and my larger career plans, that I wouldn’t feel comfortable speaking to my official boss about. One thing that I have found that works is finding an advocate in your team that is a higher up that will vouch for you. This means spending 1:1 time with them, and sharing what you wish to do and who you wish to be in the future. A work mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be your direct manager or even someone you work closely with—the most important attribute of a work mentor is someone who you like, respect, and feel you can learn something from. In fact, if you choose to find mentorship from someone who is not on your team, they’ll be able to provide you with a different perspective on your work and your goals.
If you’re thinking of asking someone for guidance be sure to schedule the meeting and show up on time prepared with what you want to talk about.
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