Speak Up and Advocate for Yourself!

By Brandi Robertson

Recently, in a discussion with two colleagues of mine, one expressed how stressed and overworked they felt. This colleague had essentially taken on the tasks of another position in addition to their normal duties without any support.  The other person in this discussion brought up how they had been in a similar situation, and used it as an opportunity to advocate for a promotion and salary increase. They encouraged our other colleague to speak up for themselves and self-advocate.

Source: Unsplash

What is self-advocacy? 

Self-advocacy is the ability to communicate your needs, wants, and interests to others.  Examples of self-advocacy include: asking for more opportunities for professional development, asking for help when you are overwhelmed, asking for a raise or promotion, saying no, setting boundaries, and vocalizing things that bother you.

Why should you advocate for yourself?

Self-advocacy is an important part of ensuring that you are happy and successful at work.  People who speak up for themselves tend to be happier in their professional careers.  Not vocalizing what you need can leave you feeling overlooked and underappreciated. Advocating for yourself prevents you from being taken advantage of, like in the case of my colleague. No one will know what you need until you speak up and make it known to others.

How to advocate for yourself?

For some, self-advocacy may seem challenging. But it can be demystified with a little planning and practice. Full disclosure: the first time may be hard. However once you get the hang of it, it will become easier. Try the suggestions below:

  1. Understand your needs and wants. The first step in advocating for yourself is to identify and understand your needs.  When determining your needs and wants you should think about what is your why, your reason. Having a reason gives you purpose. Know what kind of support might help to achieve your why, to fulfill your reason. 
  2. Know your worth.  When it’s time to communicate what you want and need, be prepared to also articulate your value. Take some time and make a list of your accomplishments, your strengths, and your contributions.  
  3. Be confident. Now that you have your list outlining how awesome you are and what you bring to the table, use that to build your confidence. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should others believe in you too? Another way to help build your confidence is to find a hype friend or colleague who will encourage you.
  4. Communicate. Have a clear ask. Don’t apologize or diminish your request. 

Advocating for yourself can benefit your professional and personal life. Being vocal about what affects you ensures that you have what you need in order to be successful. Know that you deserve to be happy and to have what you need and want.


Notes Between Us (NBU) is a blog about conversations and topics of interest to the writers. The writers are expressing their personal opinions solely. Their essays represent their personal beliefs and not that of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.