Becoming your own best advocate can make all the difference in finding success in your tech career. Advocating for yourself means going out and finding your own opportunities rather than waiting for someone to tap you on the shoulder and give you one. It’s about speaking up for yourself and creating opportunities for yourself. It starts with knowing your value and having the confidence to relay your value to others.
Advocating for yourself can sound daunting, especially if you’re an introvert like me, but I promise you it will be one of the best ways to build success. It’s much easier to advocate for yourself after you’ve put in the time to figure out where you want your tech career to be.
Start by Asking Yourself a Simple Question
What will it take for me to get ‘XYZ’? For instance, let’s say you’re looking to get a promotion at work. Start by asking yourself, “What will it take for me to get a promotion?” Be specific with what you want, and be straightforward and honest with your answers.
Then, ask the same question of leadership. This way, you can get specific, measurable milestones to hit and make sure you are on the same page with leadership on what it will take to get that promotion. Be sure to communicate your value by making it known to those in charge as you hit those necessary milestones along the way – this is an essential part of the process!
I advocated for my first promotion to Principal Engineer by asking what gap I needed to bridge to get there. I then continually followed up on meeting those milestones until I got the promotion – it was top-of-mind for me, and I made it top-of-mind for my leaders too. For my second promotion, I demonstrated my leadership skills outside my role so that when a position opened up, I was the obvious choice. I didn’t wait for someone to give me a chance; I went out and forged my own path.
Create Opportunities For Yourself
If you don’t get internal opportunities to develop the skills you need, don’t let that stop you. Go out and create those opportunities for yourself. That’s exactly what I did!
When I was a few years into my tech career, a management position wasn’t immediately available internally for me. While frustrating at first, I decided that I wouldn’t let that stop me from getting to where I wanted to be. I created opportunities for myself to demonstrate leadership both within and outside the organization, so when opportunities presented themselves, I was the natural choice for a leadership position. I knew that in order to excel, I had to get comfortable talking about myself and take responsibility for my career. And this is something I’ve continued to do throughout my career! Because that’s what you have to do – you have to commit not just to start but to continuously follow through with showing others who you are and what you do. That consistency will make you stand out among others who are doing similar work.
Raise Each Other Up
Personally, I’ve never had another woman, or even a man, advocate for me or open up an opportunity. Now that I’m in a higher position, I refuse to let that trend continue with me. I want a different future for those entering the tech industry, and that’s why I actively advocate for other women (and men too!) and open doors I know only I can open for them.
I make myself a resource so that I can elevate others as well. I work hard to raise others’ profiles by passing along names, projects, and opportunities. When roles opened up, I personally identified women in my network who would be a good fit for the position and advocated for them by personally sourcing them into roles and telling leaders why they were the best. When any woman was on the fence, I reassured her to make a move and helped ensure she didn’t miss the opportunity of a lifetime.
It’s important to remember, especially for women in tech, that we all do better when we all do better.
Practice Makes Perfect
Putting yourself out there and advocating for yourself is nerve-wracking, but it’s the only way you’re going to move your career forward. And I promise you, the more you do it, the easier it gets over time. It’s a skill like any other that takes some time to develop. When you look at it like that, it becomes much easier to tackle. Start by taking small steps – even if that means posting one or two things on social media at first. That’s how I started – I’d post myself at an event and share three essential pieces of information: I shared a photo so people could see me in action, shared where I was, and showed that I was doing something of value. You can make a post like this too, and once you do one, you can make another. And then another.
For a more in-depth analysis on how to be your own best advocate, check out my DevelopHer Membership. I created this membership to help hard-working women in tech learn how to advocate for themselves and communicate their value. With monthly meet-ups and five weekly challenges, the DevelopHer Membership holds you accountable for staying on course with your goals and aspirations. Be sure to check it out here! It’s time to start getting comfortable talking about yourself and being your own best advocate so you can transform your career. Get started today!