Today’s topic is advocating for yourself. So, so, so important!
You’re a conscientious engineer. You’re working hard toward your goals. You’re applying your skills and strengths toward your organization’s mission and its success.
And you deserve to be supported in your career vision. You deserve challenging opportunities to stretch you and build leadership skills. You deserve recognition for your contributions.
But it’s really important that the former comes across in order for the latter to happen. It’s important that the message about your hard work and value comes across clearly so that you get what you deserve.
And the way you ensure that message is clear is to advocate for yourself.
Catch this: No one has their full attention on your work. People are mentoring you, leading you, working with you. But no one has their full attention on all that you do. This is why you need to advocate for yourself.
You must tell people what you’re doing, what roles you’re taking on, the impact you’re making, and what you’re planning.
If you’re not advocating for yourself, you won’t get what you deserve. You’ll be more likely to be overlooked and underappreciated.
Self Advocacy is Basically Teaching People How to Treat You
What do I mean by advocating for yourself? Self advocacy is basically teaching people how to treat you. There are many ways you can – and should – advocate for yourself.
But the term is broader than what I’m covering here. What I want you to especially focus on is ensuring that:
- People know your capabilities and qualifications.
- The right people are up to date on your progress and abilities.
- Your preferences and plans are known.
- Your boundaries are clear.
- Expectations are set.
- Your needs and wants are communicated.
And all of this to ensure that you are given opportunities. The right opportunities and not the wrong ones. That you are given the chance to learn and grow, excel and build expertise, become a leader and make a difference.
Guidance on Advocating for Yourself in Your Engineering Career
Advocating for yourself is something that is learned and practiced. There’s a skill to the words you use and how and when to say them. (We’ll go into detail on this in a future episode.)
I invite you to go back and listen to those episodes to help you with some skills for advocating for yourself.
Also check out Episode 2 on Career Care for Women Engineers. The section about having consultations with your boss offers some more suggestions that will help with self advocacy.
For now, I’m asking and tasking you to make it a point to talk often about your work. Use this simple guidance:
- Tell people what you’re doing,
- what your role is,
- the impact you’re making,
- and what you’re planning.
Be intentional about it. Make it a practice. Talk to key people but also your network in general. Practice. Improve. Get comfortable with it. The more you advocate for yourself, the more comfortable you get, and the easier it becomes.
Here’s a trick: Have you ever noticed that it’s easier to tell others how to advocate for themselves than it is to advocate for yourself? That it’s easier to advocate for someone else than yourself?
It’s true. So the trick is to pretend you’re advocating for someone else. Think of yourself in the third person. Makes it easier.
If you struggle with advocating for yourself, I can offer help through my Signature Program. Self-advocacy is one of many important topics that will help you get to a more fulfilling career. Learn more here. Fill out an application and we can set up a discovery call.
It was really late in my career before I did much advocating for myself. And at first I was actually surprised how effective it was. People want you to advocate for yourself. People need to know what you’re capable of and what you’re interested in doing.
And if you don’t speak up to that effect, no one else will, and this valuable input will not be known.
Of course I wish I had advocated for myself earlier in my career so that I could potentially have gotten more or better opportunities. And also so that I could have become better at and more comfortable with self-advocacy.
This is what I wish for you and why I’m sharing this topic today.
Next time on Her Engineering Career Podcast we’ll talk about how to help your boss help you. Be sure to tune in for Episode 31.