Take Control: Questions To Help You Advocate For Yourself
Whenever I speak with women about the importance of taking ownership of their career, I think about a conversation with my dad.
This conversation happened when I was in college. We were talking together, and I was complaining about something. I don’t remember what had upset me that day, but I’ll never forget how my dad responded. He told me to sit down and listen carefully. He then proceeded to explain that I would never do what I wanted in life if I continued to see every situation as external to myself. My complaints always made it clear that when things didn’t turn out as I wanted, it was someone else’s fault, no matter the circumstances. He told me that until I took responsibility for this, I would not be successful. I would not have the life that I wanted.
When I look back on this conversation with my dad, I now recognize it as a pivotal moment. It may seem like “tough love,” but my dad was clearly communicating that I needed to grow up and take responsibility for where I was and who I wanted to be.
Too many women share the belief I held then, that they lack the ability to take charge of their destiny. They falsely believe that their fulfillment and success are in the hands of someone else—perhaps a supervisor, a CEO, a hiring manager, or department head.
This is a passive approach to your career. It’s an approach in which you are simply waiting for your environment to change, for someone to recognize and reward your contribution, for a colleague or manager to recommend you for that promotion or that new job.
The good news is that there are specific strategies you can employ to move away from this passive approach and begin to build agency—to develop the mindset that will position you to take charge and advocate for yourself. I find it helpful to start with a clear-eyed assessment of the behaviors and attitudes that have shaped your career so far. Seeing where you are can help you identify the skills you need to develop to positively accelerate your career.
I encourage you to spend some time reflecting on your answers to these questions:
- Have you identified the next step in your career? Does your supervisor know what you want to do?
- Have you accepted being given the same kind of work to do over and over, even though you’d like to learn new skills and try different types of assignments?
- Do you usually wait to see what kind of raise you get, or do you try to negotiate in advance for the raise you think you deserve?
- Do you wait to be assigned more responsibilities, or do you ask for those responsibilities when you think you’re ready?
- Do you think you’re qualified to move up to the next level at work but assume your boss doesn’t agree because he or she hasn’t promoted you yet?
- Which skills do you need to build to equip you to ask for more responsibilities and for projects that match your interests?
I’m encouraging you to reflect in this purposeful way to equip you to recognize that you have agency. You can begin to take charge of your career rather than waiting to be recognized and rewarded. It’s time to ask for the opportunities you want and to advocate for yourself.