Learning self-advocacy

There will be many times in an Assistants career when they will be asked to do something they don’t have time to do, don’t fit in with their goals, feel uncomfortable doing it, or don’t want to. Expressing your thoughts can be difficult, especially when you don’t have the confidence to speak up for yourself. Many Assistants will say yes to things they don’t have the time or inclination to do because it is easier than saying no or advocating for themselves. What then happens is Assistants will spend their time on projects or tasks that don’t benefit them or the organisation. They often ignore their boundaries because they don’t want to be seen as unhelpful or uncooperative.

Sound familiar?

Learning self-advocacy for Assistants is essential. Before we get into how you can advocate for yourself, what do I mean by self-advocacy?

What is self-advocacy?

I like this description from Indeed.com:

Being an advocate for yourself at work means that you’re able to recognize your worth and assume the responsibility of clearly communicating your needs, goals and desires to others.

By advocating for yourself or simply speaking up and sharing your thoughts, feelings or opinions, you will improve how people treat you, your career goals are more likely to be achieved, and you will have boundaries others respect.

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There are other benefits of self-advocacy:

  • Productivity improvement: You won’t take on tasks and assignments that others should do.
  • Reward and recognition: You can articulate why you deserve a fair remuneration package because you will add value to your organisation.
  • Working in partnership with your Executive: You can voice your opinion, provide feedback and build a partnership built on trust and respect.

How to advocate for yourself?

What value does your role bring to the organisation?

This is an important question when you think about standing up for yourself. When you are being asked to do things that don’t bring value to your organisation, your Executive or your career, you have every right to defend your position and voice your opinion, even if that means you say no to the request. Why are you employed? What is the purpose of your role? In the simplest terms, if it is to free up time for your Executive, anything outside of that scope can be questioned.

Have confidence in your skills

Consider the skills, experiences and qualifications you bring to the table. What makes you unique in your organisation? Once you hold these skills in high regard, it is easier to advocate for yourself. You might need to be more assertive in your communications, but valuing what you bring to the table will help build your confidence.

Be prepared for conflict

For many Assistants, having difficult conversations is challenging. Saying yes to something is easier than engaging in conflict or meeting resistance.

Learning self-advocacy takes practice, and you must prepare yourself for conflict because you encounter that reaction from colleagues when you start to voice your opinion or defend your decision.

Start small, voice your opinion in a team meeting or say no to someone who won’t push back. Once you practice, you can prepare yourself for more challenging conversations.

Be consistent in your communication style and expectations

There are Assistants I’ve worked with in the past who were very clear about what was expected of them, how they operated and how they expected to be treated. These Assistants were at the top of their careers, supporting CEOs and Founders. It was obvious that they were experts in what they did and communicated that consistently. When learning self-advocacy, be deliberate in communicating and protecting your time. Have expectations in place in how you want to be treated, and when colleagues don’t treat you with the respect you deserve, understand their perspective but also respect your expectations.

To summarise, learning self-advocacy is a vital trait for Assistants to have. It is essential to communicate your skills, preferences and boundaries when you’re in the workplace. Becoming adept at self-advocacy will ultimately ensure you can focus your time and energy on tasks and projects that benefit you and the organisation. There’s never been a better time to take control of your career and future success – so why wait? Take action today by exploring the Unrivalled Assistant Online Course, which offers resources made-to-measure to help build confidence within the workplace.