I need to advocate for myself, even when I do good work

Read almost any book that addresses careers and advancement and you’ll read something along these lines: doing good work and waiting for someone to notice is a poor strategy for career growth.

Sure, your good work is appreciated; it may even get you some thank-yous and invitations to do more of this type of task. Plus you probably feel good about your contributions.

But, all that doesn’t dismiss the need for self-advocacy, an essential career skill.

Self-advocacy is an essential career skill

There’s a misconception that self-advocacy is mostly something you do when you feel under-appreciated or frustrated. I had that belief for a long time. Now, I see it as an ongoing practice–and a skill you can hone.

Advocating for yourself encompasses:

  • helping others understand what you need in order to perform effectively at work
  • proposing a different way to work
  • identifying and seizing opportunities
  • showcasing your minor and major accomplishments without feeling all braggy
  • setting boundaries and expectations

Does asking for something feel icky and uncomfortable?

Self-advocacy is communicating what we need. That often requires asking.

When I work with coaching clients on asking and self-advocacy, I often hear them say something along these lines (the text in parentheses is the unsaid thoughts):

  • I don’t want to pester him about meeting because I know he’s really busy (so I’ll put off asking for that meeting)
  • I’ll do it myself (I’ll take this on too vs asking someone for help…)
  • I don’t know what to say (I’ll stay in confusion as an excuse for not asking)
  • They probably aren’t interested in [what I’m doing/thinking] (I don’t want to bother them because my ___ isn’t of sufficient value to take up their time)

Asking and self-advocacy often feel difficult, confrontational, icky, stressful, unpleasant, and uncomfortable.

So, how do you go about it, even when it generates all these feelings?

3 strategies to advocate for myself at work

It is a common misconception that self advocacy is just about speaking out or standing up for yourself, and that only good communicators or extroverts would be good self-advocates. However, you don’t need to be outspoken, assertive, or even confident in order to be able to advocate for yourself. (Kwame Christian, in “3 Effective Ways to Advocate for Yourself in the Workplace”)

I love that quote because it reminds us that we do not need to be assertive and confident to practice self-advocacy. Many of the women I coach, in spite of massive accomplishments and advanced degrees, are not walking around with puffed-up egos and abounding confidence.

Here are 3 ways to practice self-advocacy if you’re feeling a bit tentative about doing so.

  1. Know my value. Ultimately, your ability to self-advocate rests on your beliefs that you and your contributions have value in the workplace. Spend some time exploring and documenting the ways you bring value to the workplace. (The CliftonStrengths Assessment is a great tool for helping you do that)
  2. Ask my director, department head or manager to support my professional development.  Conversations about professional growth are typically part of your annual performance review; and, it would be appropriate for you to discuss it way more often. It’s fun to get creative about ways you can engage in professional growth!
  3. Track and document your accomplishments and activities. You can share this document, or a version of it, with your director/manager at your check-ins. Additionally, you can use it when seeking opportunities within or outside of your organization. It’s a great reminder to yourself about your contributions.

Over to you

  • Under what work circumstances, is it easy/hard to talk about your accomplishments?
  • In what areas of work do you want to become better at self-advocacy?
  • What helps you tap into your courage to ask for what you need at work?


Are you looking for support and strategies for self-advocacy in your career? Let’s talk! You can access my calendar directly or send me a message here.


Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

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