Do you suffer from feelings of frustration at work? Feel like you need more recognition, tangible rewards, advancement, and all that goes with it? I completely hear you. Despite the common myth that people nowadays (especially Millennials) are used to self-promotion and a sense of entitlement, I’ve found that most people, particularly women, are prone to feeling apologetic while asking for things or even just stating their opinions. If a man insists on his point-of-view, he may be seen as tenacious and self-confident (positive); the same exact behavior from a woman can be taken as shrewish and arrogant (negative). I only say this because sadly, I observed and experienced this myself in the corporate world.
However, this isn’t a game that you can’t play: there are ways to be a better advocate for yourself, speak your mind, and get what you want, without incurring raised eyebrows and ill will. Here are some of the best ways to be your own advocate and be more savvy without losing your sense of sincerity. 🙂
1. Have a good track record to begin with: It goes without saying that if your track record is good, you will have a better time advocating for yourself. Make sure you have reasons to feel confident about what you have to say.
2. Know your audience: Before you think about negotiating a pay raise or any type of transaction, think about your audience. What is this person’s background? What kind of mindset does this person have? And most tellingly, how has this person behaved in a similar situation before? For instance, if you’re trying to talk to your boss about a promotion, it might help you to know that s/he promoted two of his previous associates–or that s/he doesn’t have a track record of pulling people up. Most importantly, think really hard about what this person wants or needs, so you can match your offerings to this person’s needs.
3. Number your points: This one, I learned from someone who is in sales. (And when you’re self-advocating, you’re selling yourself, so there). I tend to resist this because of my natural tendency to write beautiful long emails with lengthy paragraphs, 🙂 but I completely see the value in this specifically when self-advocating. Why? Numbering makes your arguments look sharp, to the point, numerous, and most importantly, *you can’t apologize between 1. and 2.* (Bet you didn’t think of that!!) Without all those extra, “I’m sure you’re very busy but…” and “I just want to say that this has been…”, you have the appearance of confidence built in. (Don’t you wish you could try this like, now?!) Bonus tip: Even if your meeting is in person, have your arguments prepared in numbered points just the same. It’ll sharpen you up.
4. Know what you have to offer down to a T: Focus on your strengths and truly internalize them until you can rattle them off without batting an eye. This sounds like a no-brainer, until you realize that at the last performance review, the boss asked you how you feel like you’ve been doing and you gazed softly away and said, “well…” instead of launching straight into the last project you nailed perfectly.
5. Offer one other option: It’s easy to want something so bad (oh that promotion! that business credit card!) that you insist on only those things. However, you’ll come across as much more reasonable if you have an alternative, a middle ground that you can also accept with gladness. But remember not to give too many options, because then it makes you look weak! And that’s the last thing you want.
6. Always be impeccable: This should be a rule for any interaction, but especially when you’re self-advocating. Be firm and confident of course, but be courteous. Show that you’re not just acting on your own self-interest, but trying to reach a point of mutual interest. I would even go so far as to say this: maybe it’s because I’m from publishing, but I feel most favorably disposed when a business contact reaches out to me with “Dear …” and signs off with “All best wishes,” “All best,” or “My best.” I tend to avoid “Sincerely” because I didn’t see that at all in usage in my field. But go with what’s normal in your industry and make sure it’s on the formal side of that normal, rather than casual.
Are you a pro at self-advocating? Tell me about your self-advocating triumphs!! 🙂
More career advice: 5 Ways to Keep Not Settling
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