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How to Advocate For What You Want in Your Career

Written By Jessica Williams | Jun 25, 2018

You are responsible for managing your career, which means you must make an extra effort to speak up and ask for what you want. Advocating for opportunities at work so that you build bridges, position yourself as a leader, and maintain a good rapport with your colleagues can be challenging. You might worry about the consequences of speaking up — how people will react, what they will think of you, and how they will behave.

To overcome your fear of advocating for what you want, here are 10 powerful ways to speak up without sacrificing your values or damaging relationships at work:

  1. Be prepared.
    Good preparation is the secret to great negotiation. Go over your notes, research anything you don’t understand, consult your colleagues, jot down questions you want to ask, and think through your counterpart’s point of view ahead of time. Be prepared to show empathy, understanding, and compassion for their perspective.
  2. Channel your emotions well.
    Don’t let passion for what you’re asking for come across as anger or frustration. Use it as fuel to motivate and inspire others to see your side. Process your emotions ahead of time so that you can channel them appropriately and communicate clearly when the time comes.
  3. Be clear and direct, but kind.
    Despite how it might feel, you can speak directly and be kind at the same time. Concise, clear communication is important to getting what you want. You were hired (or will be hired) for your expertise and skills, and keeping quiet is not what they hired you to do, so advocate for your opinion. You don’t have to apologize for asking for what you want, either. Look for ways to be kind and generous to your counterpart to build good will, trust, and rapport.
  4. Present the business case.
    When advocating for something at work, it’s always important to tie your request back to the bottom line. How is this good for business? Does it help increase profit, employee retention, or grow the organization in a positive direction? Present the business case for what you want to persuade your counterpart with facts, research and data that support your point of view.
  5. Be a good listener and ask great questions.
    Research shows that the less you talk and the more your counterpart feels heard, the more trustworthy you seem and the more likely you are to get what you want. This means you need to ask great questions to uncover the needs and wants of your counterpart and then position your request as a solution to their problems. Done correctly this helps you inspire a shared vision so that they feel like they’ve participated in the process and are bought in on a resolution.
  6. Collaborate with others.
    A great collaboration is when two or more people build on top of each other’s ideas to create a collective result that is beyond what any one person could have envisioned. When advocating for what you in your career, look for ways to collaborate with your counterpart to come up with a solution that works for both parties. Think win-win.
  7. Facilitate conversation.
    If we haven’t made it clear by now, it’s important to note that advocating for yourself doesn’t mean you do all the talking. Demonstrate your leadership by facilitating the conversation towards an agreed upon action that everyone can get behind. Ask questions that help uncover hidden concerns, needs, and solutions to the problem. Steer the conversation towards mutually beneficial agreements that are action-oriented.
  8. Negotiate well.
    Your ability to see the situation as the other side sees it is key to negotiating well, but you have to be willing to compromise. If the answer to what you want is “No,” think of it as “not yet.” Look for other ways to move the needle in your direction that feel good to both you and your counterpart.
  9. Be persuasive.
    Persuasion is an art that can be cultivated, and it starts by painting a compelling picture for others to buy into. Tell a good story, make an emotional appeal, and back it up with logic, facts, and data that demonstrate why your request is good for business.
  10. Take personal responsibility.
    Before any conversation where you are advocating for what you want, take a moment and ask yourself — what is in your sphere of control and influence? What do you have control over and what do you not have control over? Where can you influence the outcome? Take personal responsibility for what you can control, influence things where you can, and let go of what you can’t.

When it comes to your career — you’re in charge.

Develop a good working relationship with your managers so they know your career goals. Figure out what the performance indicators are for your promotion and then advocate for yourself when you feel you’ve met them.

Don’t wait for others to advocate for you, follow the steps we’ve outlined above and move the needle in your favor when you can. For more on this topic, check out this free online training on how to advocate for what you want in your career.

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