Be Your Biggest Advocate

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There’s a saying my dad always says in jest:

“If I don’t do it, no one else will.” 

He typically says this in regard to small household tasks, like dusting the top of a shelf or vacuuming the floor.  But his mantra holds true in business as well.  If you don’t advocate for yourself, who will?  

You may think others, like your manager, will do so, but they won’t automatically advocate for you just because they are on your team.  In fact, they may have no idea what you’ve done all year or what you want, so how can they advocate on your behalf?  

It is your responsibility to be your biggest advocate.  Only you know the details of every project, presentation, and memo you’ve worked on.  Only you know how much time it took to write project requirements.  Only you know how many late nights you’ve spent thinking about how to progress your projects.  So why shouldn’t you advocate for yourself?

Yes, your manager should be an advocate for you.  But you need to make them one first by your performance.  Show them you are doing an outstanding job.  Once you’ve done this, tell them what you’ve done and how you did it.  They can only observe so much of your performance.  Plus, they are not in each and every meeting with you, so they cannot see all of your work.  That is why telling them (again, being your own biggest advocate) is so important.  It allows your manager to get the full picture of what you’ve done.  Once they have the full picture they can vouch for you in front of others.

Let’s say you assume your manager is your biggest advocate and you do not tell them what you’ve worked on and your accomplishments.  By making this assumption, you do not feel the need to tell them what you’ve done and how you did it.  As a result, your manager only has a base level of knowledge of what you’ve worked on.  They only know what you’ve done from the interactions you’ve had with them.  This may not have short-term impact, but the long-term consequences are major.  By not advocating for yourself, your manager may remove you from larger projects or, even worse, not consider you for a promotion.  Be sure your manager knows what you are working on and how you are doing with your projects.

You might be thinking: “I don’t want to come across like I’m bragging about my accomplishments.”  That is fair - you certainly want to appear humble about them so you have a positive imagine in the minds of others.  By advocating on your behalf using facts of performance (i.e. the process I manage has reduced lead time by 23% since my initiative went live), you will be able to provide cold hard evidence of your accomplishments.  This is not bragging, rather it is stating the end result of a project.  Bragging would go something like “the process I manage has reduced lead time by 23% since my initiative went live.  Brad’s process has actually increased lead time by 5%, so I’m better.”  Leave other people out of this - remember you are your own best advocate, not your peers’ biggest critic.  In informing others of what you’ve accomplished, come prepared with facts and be tactful on how you present them.

Assuming in life and business is always risky.  Never leave a discussion or conversation with assumptions open, as the end result may not be what you expect.  If you are worried about others having an assumption about your or your performance, question them on those assumptions.  That way you are able to know what they are and then have a chance to respond to them.  

Like my dad always says: “If I don’t do it, no one else will.”  Don’t leave advocacy up to others.  Take ownership of it and you will have much more control over your career.

Thought Starters

  • When you made assumptions, how did the situation turn out?
  • How have you gone about advocating for yourself with your peers?

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