Self-advocacy is something you may have heard of before. A self-advocate is someone who advocates for his or her own interests. That is having the courage to speak about your needs and wants, and this is essential for your growth as a person and in your career.
Speaking up for yourself and expressing yourself in life and career might not be as easy as it feels, but there is always a first attempt. To become an effective advocate, you must first understand your strengths and your weaknesses, what you need to do to improve your weaknesses and then harness your strengths. To achieve this, you need to honestly reflect and introspect. Be aware that everything in life is about balance, and true confidence comes from awareness of ourselves, both positive and negative. It is key not to be too critical of yourself, but to be honest and willing to work, especially when it comes to your weaknesses. We are also often our own worst critics, so seek feedback from peers and managers and document your progress as you move forward.
Secondly, speak up for yourself! This is beyond your career, but what you have accomplished outside of it. Describe how your work ethic contributes to your employer's success. Talk about how you bring value to the table and how every value has its own advantage. Remember we talked about documenting? This is how you provide evidence of value. It should be something you can quantify, a clear tangible output. For example, showing evidence of how your contribution has gained X revenue, cut down waste by X percentage or grown a social media page by X number. The only tool you have is yourself. Use it wisely and blow your trumpet but be sure to back it up with evidence of tangible value. Now, if you have a problem with communication, sign up for a communication class, speak up during group discussions and help will come. The journey of self-advocacy is not travelled alone. Always remember this.
Lastly, it is imperative to remember that you are evolving. This is not a bad thing. It shows you are making progress. Take stock of how your evolution is serving your career needs, and your career vision. There should be alignment between this and the vision of your employer. What do you value, and what does your employer value? Is there synergy? Is there an opportunity to develop enhanced competencies? Take stock of this and be proactive. You might be missing out on opportunities. Advocate for yourself today. You could be missing out on better remuneration, being chosen for a scholarship or generally being valued as an asset.
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