Advocating for yourself at work: Avoid it at your own peril

Let’s face it: we are in a time of unparalleled organizational dysfunction. We've all experienced times of utter professional discontent, where we feel wholly disconnected from the purpose and impact of our work. We bemoan the lack of opportunity for growth and development, and of course curse bad managers and even more frustrating coworkers.


At times, it seems like a losing a battle, Except, maybe it's not. Are there things in our work worlds we’ll never be able to change? Sure. Will we ever be 100% thrilled about our work? Probably not. However, we do have opportunities to change how we react and navigate our work experience. Often we have more power than we choose to use in actively managing our current jobs and even our careers over the long-term.


We absolutely have power over our attitude and efforts toward our work, our companies, our leadership, and our coworkers.


Here’s the deal: very few people go into work one day, are pulled aside by their manager, and told “You are meant to be here! You’ve got IT! You’re our next leader and I’m going to make it my work-life’s mission to get you where you need to be in our organization." Side note: if some version of that has happened to you please share your stories in the comments. We all need to hear encouraging stories of managers nailing leadership and propelling talented people toward bigger and better experiences in their organizations!


For the rest of us, we're going to have to get proactive to improve our work experiences and drive our own success. In other words, we must advocate for ourselves at work:


UNDERSTAND YOUR IMPACT: Are you documenting your wins and positive feedback? If not, start now! Others around you are constantly providing data to reinforce your professional value and impact on the team and larger organization. Listen up and document, document, document. It is up to you to collect the evidence and fully embrace the ways in which you are adding value every day.


BE SPECIFIC: Identify in detail your particular strengths, expertise, and potential impact. In addition, know your specific areas for learning and growth to strategically identify the work assignments and projects that will provide those development opportunities.


SHARE YOUR VALUE: Once you have clarity around your full professional value, it is time to start communicating that value to others. The "head-down, just doing my job" approach will not suffice if your goal is to maximize your opportunities for challenging and purposeful work. Finding ways to strategically share your value can create opportunities to work on the type of assignments and projects that excite and inspire you.


KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE: Do you know your manager's priorities? Do you understand your leadership's vision? Advocating for yourself at work includes understanding how the organizational priorities align with your individual priorities. Once you identify that alignment you can effectively position yourself for visibility around the most valued work in the organization that also serves your individual work objectives and development goals.


TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS: Odds are you know your job better than your boss. Believe me. How many managers even have the time to fully understand and appreciate all of the nuances of each team member's role? They're all too busy, right? This presents an opportunity: proactively communicate your expertise and ideas for solving team and organizational challenges. You have more power than you realize, activate it and reap the benefits using your talents and expertise to do fun, interesting and challenging work.


CREATE YOUR CIRCLE: It takes a village. No really, it does. Curating and nurturing a group of trusted advisors that can help and support you through your work experiences is invaluable. The team should be comprised of peers, colleagues, and leaders both in and outside your current organization, industry, and broader professional community.


BELIEVE YOU DESERVE IT: Becoming very clear on your professional value and impact is the key to effectively advocating for yourself at work. Once you've done that hard work it is time to believe you deserve it. Through the process of learning to advocate for yourself, you will experience increased confidence, knowing you deserve opportunities to satisfy your career objectives and connect with work that is meaningful to you.


Sounds nice, but not necessarily easy? Please get in touch to learn more about how I partner with professionals like you to craft and tell your professional story in an authentic and compelling way, to define your full value in the job market, and identify ways to gain access to opportunities that align with your career goals, inspire, and motivate you.

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