How to Advocate for Yourself Professionally

Mindful Advocacy: How Personal Growth Boosts Confidence for Professional Success

Whether well-established in your profession or starting anew, learning how to advocate for yourself is an invaluable tool in bringing you closer to your career goals. Career advocacy takes many forms, such as seeking growth opportunities, asking for a raise, requesting additional resources, and adjusting work-life balance. Here, we look at approaches to these workplace conversations with holistic career coach, Lydia Fogo Johnson, MS, whose expertise is in helping individuals overcome burnout and design fulfilling, balanced careers.

Q. What exactly does it mean to advocate for yourself?

A. Advocating for yourself at work means actively nurturing your well-being, success, and professional fulfillment by clearly communicating and pursuing your needs, preferences, and goals. The precursor to confidently advocating for your needs is spending time self-reflecting to know exactly where your needs are and aren’t being met and what you need instead.

Q. I’d like to be considered for a promotion! How do I start that conversation?

mindful advocacy | graphic illustration of multiple colored pens in pink background

A. The first challenge is remembering the details of everything you’ve accomplished. Frequently update a detailed record of your key projects, accomplishments, and any good feedback you’ve received. This record is also helpful when prepping for interviews and a personal booster when you suffer from imposter syndrome, reminding you of your worth and potential. Remember, your boss looks good when you look good, so don’t hesitate to share your successes!

Q. How do I draw attention to my accomplishments without coming across as arrogant?

A. Avoiding sounding arrogant is easy if you always give credit where it’s due. If you worked on a team project, make sure to call out every single contributor. This shows your gratitude for their efforts and fosters a culture of appreciation and collaboration. Give out kudos to others early and often.

Q. How do I set boundaries at work while still being respectful of my team?

A. Boundaries are commitments you make with yourself, outlining specific actions you will (or won’t) take in response to a situation. They are all about you and your behavior, not about attempting to control others’ behaviors. A simple formula for a boundary goes like this: If [situation happens], I will/won’t [action]. 

This format is respectful of coworkers because your focus is on changing your behaviors instead of theirs. Brené Brown’s advice, “Clear is kind,” is also applicable here – by communicating clear boundaries, you’re setting everyone up for success and reducing uncertainty and angst for all parties involved.

Q. Sometimes my coworkers make comments that are hurtful or offensive to me. Is it worth addressing, or should I just let it slide?

A. Ultimately, the choice is up to you, your situation, and your bandwidth at any given moment. Carrying the burden of educating and providing feedback to others can become exhausting – permit yourself to let it slide if you don’t feel comfortable, safe, or aren’t up for the task. If you feel physically and emotionally safe in this environment and have the emotional capacity to address the comment, nonviolent communication principles can be a helpful format for these conversations.

Comments like this are often blunders from a well-intended coworker, but sometimes, they are microaggressions or outright harassment. If you suspect this is the case or these comments become routine, document the details and contact your manager and/or HR for support. When faced with work-related challenges, remember that you don’t have to navigate these struggles alone. Consider reaching out to others to enlist their support in improving your workdays.

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