How to advocate for yourself

You hear about an exciting new project at work, and know you can knock it out of the park if only given the opportunity. What should you do? Don’t wait for the boss to notice you and offer you the project— speak up. If you don’t someone else will. Advocating for yourself—whether asking for a raise, a promotion or a chance to work on your dream project—can be one of the trickiest skills to learn in your career. Here are some tips to help you:

  1. Be honest with yourself

    Before you talk to your boss, do some self-evaluation. What accomplishments do you have on your ledger that have gotten you notoriety and compliments? Do you have the skill set—and have you proven that to your boss—to take on more responsibility or to receive a raise? Granted, the only way to get experience is to be given a chance, but you don’t want to be seen as someone thinking they can leapfrog steps to success. For example, a junior sales associate needs to prove they have the savvy, persuasive skills and business acumen to move on to big clients. Once you’ve mastered the skills necessary to move up, and can confidently perform higher-level tasks, it’s time to plot out a strategy to get you to where you want to be.

  2. Know what you want—and pursue it with confidence

    As part of your self-examination, figure out exactly what you want. Is it a raise? A promotion and a raise? A chance to work overseas? To work in a different department? You need to be able to articulate what you want in a couple of clear sentences that you can tell your boss. And once you can, be confident in yourself. As Lisa Evans from Fast Company pointed out, “To be a good self-advocate, you need to have self-confidence. If you don’t believe you’re the best candidate, you’ll send out that vibe.”

  3. Do your homework

    Make sure to do plenty of research. This can involve Google, talking to colleagues, seeking advice from a mentor or those outside your organization, as well as a casual conversation with someone senior to you within your company who might have information to help you. You want to make sure you enter any conversation with your boss as prepared as possible.

  4. Keep your emotions in check

    When asking for a raise or promotion, remember that for your boss, this isn’t about your feelings, it’s about what you deserve and what makes the most business sense. Career coach Lea McLeod of The Muse wrote, “When you’re sharing what you need in a difficult conversation, stay calm, focused, and unemotional throughout the meeting. You’ll want to focus the conversation on what you need, rather than casting blame or criticizing others.”

  5. Tailor your request to the person you’re talking to

    In other words, make it a win-win situation. Explain why you landing a project or getting a promotion will help them achieve their own goals, or increase productivity.

  6. Aim high—don’t ask for less just to increase the chance of success

    If you ask for less than you believe you deserve, you won’t be satisfied, and you’ll still be in the same position within a short time period. Margie Warrell, an executive coach and Forbes contributor, said, “The reality is you will rarely if ever, be given more than what you have the courage to ask for. So don’t dilute your requests in order to minimize the possibility of being turned down.”

  7. Be specific regarding timing

    Companies will often try to kick a promotion or a raise down the road in order to buy more time. Understanding that is key for you when talking to management. Once your cards are on the table, make sure to include a timetable of when you’re hoping to see movement. It gives your boss more context on where you believe you are in your job, how far along you are. For example, there’s a big difference between being ready to absorb new challenges in a couple of months versus a year.

  8. Expect resistance

    Enter into your first conversation knowing it will need to be the first of several. Very rarely does anyone ever get what they want the first time they ask. Part of the planning process is knowing it will be an ongoing negotiation, and coming armed each time with more office success stories, more reasons you should get what you deserve.

Judy Smith advises Presidents, celebrities, Fortune 500 companies, and was even the real-life inspiration for Scandal’s Olivia Pope. In other words, when it comes to solving problems large and small, she’s the best. She can help you face—and overcome—the toughest challenges in your professional and personal life, so you can unleash your full potential.

Site Design Rebecca Pollock
Site Development Alchemy + Aim