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a young professional receiving good news from manager; self advocate

Benefits of Being Your Own Advocate

It’s important to know how to advocate for yourself. You should pursue what you need from a situation, whether in a relationship or at work or school. Indeed, it can be difficult to find the confidence to speak up. In most cases, however, you must self-advocate to succeed.

Self-advocacy is the act of communicating or asserting your interests and needs. For example, you may self-advocate for a promotion, raise, or accommodations. It’s vital to ensure you’re satisfied and set up for success. Regardless of your goal, you need to make sure your voice is heard. In an ideal work environment, management should listen and work with you. Sometimes they may have to meet you in the middle. It’s not just in your best interest but theirs as well to ensure all employees are about to do their best work. Otherwise, they’ll see a higher turnover rate and poorer performance across the board.

So, how do you advocate for yourself? Before we get into our tips, first read how you should prepare for the process.

Preparing Ahead of Time

Notably, before you meet with your supervisor, significant other, or professor, you need to know what you’re asking for. You may need accommodations to succeed, but what kind? Regardless of the situation, consider your strengths and weaknesses. If you need accommodations, where are you struggling? For a promotion, how will the company benefit?

A large part of self-advocacy is knowing your limits and abilities. Remember that the process is majorly a negotiation. You need or want something, and whoever you’re asking will need something in return. Their requirement may be as simple as knowing you’re more productive. Or they’ll want you to take on more responsibilities. A professor will want you to succeed and be able to submit work. In a relationship, the return will be knowing that you’re both on a path to happiness. Regardless, you must clearly communicate what you need.

Keep thorough records of your accomplishments, medical files, education, and more. You can use these when seeking accommodations, promotions, and raises.

Research Your Options

In addition to knowing yourself, you must also know the realities of your ask. Thus, you must do your research. Imagine if you ask for a raise but ask for way too much of a salary increase. Not only do you risk showing that you’re not familiar with what your business can pay, but also what reasonable compensation is for your position. Indeed, you should always get paid what you’re worth. But you’re unlikely to receive $70,000 for a job that usually pays $40,000.

Employers want to be confident they’re making a good investment by giving you more money. Showing you’re unfamiliar with the industry isn’t a great way to prove your value.

In the case of disability advocacy, you should also ensure you’re researching what you’re entitled to. For example, some laws and policies protect individuals with disabilities at work and school.

When seeking accommodations, look into what businesses and universities are legally required to provide. Furthermore, if you’re being denied your protected accommodation, you should know who to speak to in HR and how to seek legal advice ahead of time.

Form Your Plan

When you’re ready to begin talks, come in with a plan. Write everything down you need to remember. Don’t be afraid to take a formal letter with you. That way, if you forget anything in the conversation, you still have it on paper. You may also consider sending an electronic copy before or after the talk. Emails come with the bonus of a digital receipt.

Digital receipts provide many benefits. Firstly, you have a specific time and date to refer back to. If your supervisor asks for time to think about their decision, you know when to check in on the process. Secondly, if more than one person is involved, you can more easily provide everyone with the timeline. Finally, you have a paper trail if you deal with a case where your needs are ignored.

Disability advocacy isn’t always easy or straightforward. There are, unfortunately, businesses and individuals out there who don’t want to provide their employees or customers with basic amenities. If your protected accommodations are denied, you have the receipts to provide to HR or a lawyer.

two professionals planning

Top 8 Tips on How to Advocate for Yourself

Being your own advocate can sound intimidating. You have to put yourself out there and speak up. For many, speaking up is hard enough on its own. But if you don’t advocate for yourself, who will?

To get what you need, you must find your voice. Keep reading to learn our top eight tips for advocating for yourself. For clarity, this list will focus on self-advocacy at your job. However, you can use these tips to prepare for any situation.

1. Consider Your Future Plans

We’ve mentioned planning for the process, but you must also have a larger plan. Especially at work, taking steps you’re not sure you want can have long-lasting consequences. Consider if you fight for a new position because it pays more only to find out you hate it. You can’t return to your old job, and your boss doesn’t want to risk moving you to another department. As a result, you’re either miserable in your new role, or you leave the company entirely.

When you advocate for yourself, you must be sure you actually want the result long-term. In the case of a new job or responsibility, you may consider asking your supervisor for a trial period. This way, both you and your boss feel comfortable with you in the role.

Additionally, your plan will realistically have many steps. Think about where you are in the process. Is the promotion you’re pursuing realistic at this point? If not, what must you do first? Make sure you’re qualified and able to take over a position. You may need more experience or education first.

2. Build Your Network

A strong network is important to getting what you need from your career. You should create connections both in and outside of your company. These individuals can help you find opportunities for growth through postings and information they share. Additionally, they may also be able to get you an interview or recommendation for a position.

Regardless of your industry, a good network is an asset that can help you move forward and grow. Nowadays, you can form these connections online through sites like LinkedIn. You can also build it at work by talking to your coworkers and attending events.

3. Practice Your Communication Skills

Self-advocating means talking to others, often individuals higher up in the company than you. Thus, you need strong communication skills to express yourself and negotiate.

If you’re more introverted or get nervous talking to authority, it’s always good to practice what you want to say ahead of time. For example, you may create a script to start from. However, the conversation is likely not going to follow a linear path. Your supervisor might have questions or have a different response than you anticipated.

You may think it’s good to just provide a written copy without approaching management, but this path may have a few negative outcomes. Notably, your manager may find it rude if you say one thing to their face and then spring a request for promotion on them via email. Context is important. Indeed, at larger companies, you may have minimal interaction with your supervisor. But you should still reach out before sending a formal letter. Consider asking if they have time to talk or if it’s all right to send them your document.

Furthermore, sending an email without context may result in you not receiving a timely response. Your supervisor may not check their inbox regularly. Your unexpected email may get buried under dozens of other messages over a week. Alternatively, they may put it on the back burner to work on more pertinent communications. It might even wind up forgotten.

We recommend working on both spoken and written communication while you prepare. Try using online guides and videos to improve your abilities.

4. Get Support

You should consider who in the company can help you achieve your goals. Consider reaching out to your peers, current or past supervisors, or members of other departments. Getting help to advocate for yourself may seem contradictory. However, a professional support system serves two very important purposes in the process. Firstly, you get a test run as you must practice self-advocacy with a coworker. This conversation will be much lower stakes and help you see any issues with your plan.

Secondly, you’ll get to add more supportive evidence when you approach management. You may ask for a letter of recommendation, a testimony, or simply a cheerleader throughout the process. Even if they cannot help you get the position directly, they can help you find resources and build your plan.

5. Know Who You’re Asking

Part of your planning should include knowing what your first step will be. Management may want you to jump through hoops or expect certain methods of communication. For example, your supervisor might want you to follow strict steps even to start talking about a new position. Or you may need to schedule a meeting weeks in advance.

Furthermore, your supervisor’s personality matters. It’s no secret that some managers are difficult or demanding. What will they see as reasonable? What do they value? How you bring up your thoughts on getting promoted should be tailored to your manager. Indeed, if they appreciate on-the-job experience more than a degree, focusing on your educational background won’t help you here. Figure out what matters to your supervisor. What can you offer them, and what will they be willing to provide for you?

If you’re dealing with an especially difficult manager, don’t be afraid to reach out for help during the process. Your human resources representative or another supervisor may be able to provide advice.

6. State Your Case

At a certain point, you need to move out of the planning phase and into the doing phase. Taking that step may be difficult. However, if you don’t take it, all your forethought and effort was for nothing.

If you planned well, you should be ready to state your case. Gather your information and documents and inform your supporters that you’re moving forward with your plan. Send that meeting request or email, knock on their door, or ask when they have a moment to talk. Be confident and know you can rely on the facts and evidence you gathered.

Further, be ready to answer any questions they send your way. Make sure you’re prepared to respond to anything they may ask. For example, ensure you don’t get lost in the hard facts. Your manager may ask questions such as “Why do this position appeal to you?” or “Why now?”

You should also be prepared for the case that you don’t get what you ask for. Unfortunately, you won’t always hear a “yes.”

7. Know Your Worth and Be Persistent

If you don’t get the promotion, you should consider two paths. First, revisit your plan. Use any feedback your supervisor offered and reevaluate your timeline or choices. You may even need to reconsider your future with the company. For example, some businesses will try to keep top performers in lower-level positions because they do well there. They don’t want to lose productivity at that level. Obviously, this is unfair to the employee and stalls their possible growth. If you feel your supervisor is trying to trap you because you’re doing too well, you may need to find a new company.

For the second path, know that you moving up in the company isn’t always doable at that time. You may have asked at the wrong time. Or your request may have been a little too lofty for the budget or staffing needs. In this case, take the time to follow any suggestions or advice your supervisor may have provided. Then, watch for your chance. Remain persistent and don’t let management brush you off or forget about you. However, don’t be pushy with nothing to show for it. Continue doing your best work to show them why you’re the perfect candidate.

Of course, as with the first path, it may be time to find somewhere new if your company doesn’t recognize your worth. Businesses that don’t appreciate their top performers lose them to those that will. Sometimes being your own advocate means knowing when to leave.

8. Show Appreciation and Celebrate Success

On the other hand, what if you do hear that “yes”? Obviously, celebrations are in order, but you’re not finished just yet.

Make sure you show appreciation to anyone who helped you and management itself. Verbal or written thank you’s are in order. Additionally, you may consider inviting those you’re close with to a celebratory lunch or dinner.

Also, on top of expressing gratitude to your supervisor, you can show them they made the right decision but put your all into the new job. Self-advocacy isn’t done until you’re in the position that you want. Your plan must be fully implemented and successful. Thus, put the same energy into your new role as you did into pursuing it.

Finally, don’t forget to do something for yourself for self-care. Being your own advocate is hard work. Reward yourself for a job well done to prepare for your next chapter.

a mug that says I am the hero of my own life

Final Thoughts

Being your own advocate takes a lot of time and effort. For many, the process is intimidating and even frightening. However, the benefits are well worth it. Through self-advocacy, you can pursue your dream job, improve relationships, and get the help you need.

While everyone’s path varies, following these eight steps will help you prepare for the road ahead.