Summer is finally here in Minnesota! Watching flowers unfurl to gorgeous blooms got me thinking about a very important, consistent challenge for my clients in coaching. Blooming proudly.
Flowers naturally blossom, bloom and show off their brilliant colors and textures for the whole world. We LOVE the beauty they offer and are transfixed by it!
For many women, boldly blooming, especially in the workplace, is a challenge and doesn’t come naturally. We are uncomfortable talking about our strengths, our wins and why we are generally great at what we do. Self-advocating is a challenge for ME even after 30 years of practicing!
The great news is that self-advocacy is a skill. We can learn how to get better at it and overcome the self-advocacy gap (1) that research has shown to be a real problem for women in the workplace. Why is it important? Your self-advocacy skills and confidence in yourself shape many important decisions, including your willingness to contribute ideas in the workplace, your choice to apply for and pitch yourself for a promotion, or negotiate for a salary raise. It’s a required skill to meaningfully navigate your career path. Less than half of women in the workforce say that they advocate for themselves in the right amount (2).
So how DO you get better at advocating for yourself? Here are two tips I use with all of my clients – and myself too!
- Recognize the discomfort – your experience is legit!
- The discomfort is REAL. Some of that feeling comes from things that are out of your control. Gender stereotypes are alive and kicking in the workplace which affects how we act and can make self-promoting feel difficult and awkward.
- How do you add to the discomfort? Look at how YOU contribute, What’s the story you’re telling yourself? And how is that contributing to the negative feelings? Often our inner critics have tactics that unnecessarily add tension to the situation. You know judgmental comments such as you’re not good enough, you don’t have the right experience, if you talk about what you do well – you’re bragging.
- You don’t have do it alone! Find your allies.
- Who in your organization can and would advocate for you? I ask my clients ‘Who are your Apple-raving-fans?’ Although women have a hard time self-advocating, we are fantastic at advocating for others so leverage tendency and help each other.
- Who can help you craft and practice your message? This can be a friend, a partner, a trusted co-worker or a coach. Talking through your credentials and strengths with someone else will help you get more comfortable and confident. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
- Find organizations that can help support you. Organizations that are all about female empowerment can be huge to help you find your voice, your confidence and strengthen your self-advocacy skills. Here are some ideas and well respected sources to check out: Chief and this list from Wharton.
And just in case you think I’ve got this handled – I don’t! I still experience discomfort … even after 30 years of coaching! It takes ongoing practice and continuously working on these skills. KEEP AT IT! This month, I challenge you to do one thing – even if it’s just writing down a list of your top strengths or having a conversation with a trusted someone to practice saying them out loud.
If you’re not sure what your strengths are or if you get anxious thinking about it – a coach will help you find your voice and your path! Email me for a FREE sample session to see how coaching might work for you.
Cheers to your beautiful, blooming self!