Why is it so hard for us to advocate for ourselves? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather sing someone else’s praise all day long than have to do it for myself. I’m great at advocating for others, but when it comes to my own work, forget it.
This dread and fear about advocating for ourselves comes from a variety of places – we all know people who are all talk and swagger, but don’t produce results. If you’re worried about advocating for yourself, then you definitely don’t want to be that guy. Sometimes we’re too busy doing the work to do a good job at communicating about the work. Other times, we see a rare job pop up and we realize that the person seen as the “perfect fit” has already laid the groundwork to get the job… maybe for years? It’s easy to feel really far behind.
We can all agree that advocating for yourself plays a vital role in the workplace. Unfortunately work is a complex political atmosphere even in the best situations. If being a good advocate for yourself is necessary in the workplace, then we need to figure out how to get better at it.
To do this, I asked a network of amazing women leaders from around the country to give us some advice. They serve in Fortune 500 companies, local & federal government, the non-profit sector, and academia as senior leaders down to first level supervisors.
Over the next two weeks, I’m going to share their thoughts on becoming a good advocate – how do you get that next project or position? How do you become the go-to person? How do you get where you want to go?
Full disclaimer: each of them said “I’m not good at it,” “I hate doing it,” or “I’ve had to think very strategically about this.” Every. Single. One. If you dread advocating for yourself, the good news is that you’re not alone. And you can get better.
Today, let’s start with creating a personal brand.
To move forward at work, you need have a good sense of who you are and how you want to be perceived in the workplace. If you don’t know what you want, how will the people making decisions know what you want? If you don’t know how others perceive you, consider taking a 360 degree assessment.
Try reading through this list as a way to think about your brand. If words motivate you, pick three key characteristics that are important to you tape those words to the bottom of your monitor. Find an illustrated quote and put it up in your office. Use your personal brand to keep yourself on target when you’re having bad or frustrating days.
Knowing your working style, what you care about, and what you bring to the table isn’t enough. Others need to inherently understand your personal brand. It’ll help them know what to expect from you. I hate going to the unpredictable guy in the office when I need something. Or the person that treats me like a good friend one day and an enemy the next? No, thank you.
Co-workers and leaders feel more comfortable coming to you when they know what to expect. Are you good with teamwork, even when the team isn’t doing well? When people ask you for help or advice, do you make people feel human or stupid? Predictable behavior doesn’t mean being boring. You can be predictably insightful or predictably a problem-solver.
Creating a personal brand forces you to really think about who you are, how you want to be known, and what you want for your future. That consistent message will help you with positioning, seeking out new experiences, and planting seeds in others. It needs to be in place before you see a new job opportunity come up or a new project that you want to lead or champion. You need to know what you want so that you can lay the groundwork for being the “next natural choice” for a job or project. You’ll be able to see opportunities when they come up instead of realizing what they are as they’re passing you by.
Do you have questions or thoughts about advocating for yourself? Please add them to the comments below and I’ll try to get some answers for next week!