How to Become Your Own Advocate at Work
By Steve Ritch
Sometimes we clearly need someone else to stand up for us. We have experienced this all of our lives, from parents to guidance counselors to favorite teachers to friends. However, there comes a time in everyone's life when one needs to speak up and be judged on one's own merits.
But what do you do if you feel you don't have anyone else in your corner in your work life? How do you stand up for yourself in a professional manner? How can you become your own best advocate?
- Take an honest inventory of your skills and abilities. There are several guides that are commercially available for people to use to take a skills inventory. However, if you want a simple technique to use, simply take a sheet of paper and make three columns. One column should be "Things I can do well," the second column should be "Things I like to do," and the third column should be labeled "Things I would like to learn." Be thoughtful and honest in your appraisal and make sure you list everything you can think of. If you get stuck, ask a colleague or a friend to give you an honest assessment of your skills—you might be pleasantly surprised at what someone else thinks of as one of your abilities! When can you begin your inventory?
- Do your research. Do you have a job description? Does your state have licensure or registration requirements? Do you know what the Support Personnel in Audiology: Position Statement and Guidelines or the Guidelines for the Training, Use, and Supervision of Speech-Language Pathology Assistants documents say regarding the appropriate training, qualifications, and scope of practice for support personnel? It would be a good idea to review all of these items and then compare them to the inventory you just created to see where your current skills, interests, and gaps exist. How many of these resources can you review this week?
- Partner with your supervisor. If you feel that you are totally alone in your job, then you need to work on building a better relationship with your supervisor. Try to approach your supervisor after you have completed your inventory and compared it to the resources mentioned above. Talk to your supervisor about creating a professional development plan, or at least get some advice from him or her on how to best improve in some of the items that you have noted as potential growth areas. Explain to your supervisor that you not only want to be a better assistant, but that you also want to deliver the best quality of work that you can for the client. What can you do today to start fostering a better sense of teamwork with your supervisor?
- Get training in advocacy. Chances are good that you will not see a YouTube video that is professional quality and teaches you everything you always wanted to know about being your own advocate. However, there are many free (yes, free) resources available that will help you with everything from speaking more clearly and professionally, to how to speak to your boss about a raise, to how to build your confidence—and all of these resources will help you become a better advocate. Which resources can you locate online?
- Get a coach. Nothing helps you make progress faster than having someone else help you to create a plan and then help you stick to it. Get together with a colleague or friend who you think could help you develop some goals. Set up regular meetings or update sessions to apprise your coach of your progress. Ask for guidance or some additional inspiration when you get stuck. What teacher, friend, or colleague do you know who would be willing to fulfill this role for you?
Okay, so you may never be able to present yourself as well as a politician or a lawyer arguing in front of the Supreme Court. But with careful appraisal, a little research, and utilizing some outside resources in the form of your supervisor and a coach, you might surprise yourself at how well you become your own best advocate on the job.