This past week, I was approached by a friend about whether or not they should apply for a recently open full-time position at their current workplace. This person is currently on a short-term contract, which expires in six months. The role is very similar to their current position so the subsequent ramp up time would be minimal.

I couldn’t begin to fathom why this would even be a question. I even went as far as saying “It would be a colossal error if you didn’t apply.”

My friend then said “That’s easy for you to say, but I’m naturally shy and I struggle with the idea of going to someone and telling them what I want.”

I realized I could have responded more appropriately in that moment. Rather than jumping to a conclusion and unintentionally belittling my friend, I should have listened to them and helped unpack why they’re struggling with the decision.

This experience was also a reminder that advocating for yourself is not a given.

What is Self-Advocacy?

Self-advocacy is “the ability to speak up for yourself and the things that are important to you.” A self-advocate is someone who can confidently make a case for themselves and communicate what they want in many different ways. It is a form of empowerment. 

Self-Advocacy at Work – You either own your career or someone else will.

When I think of self-advocacy at work, the first name that comes to mind is one of my former managers, Sanjay Gosalia. Sanjay embodied intellectual curiosity. A discussion with Sanjay involved going extremely deep on a topic I thought I was an expert on. By the time the meeting ended, I realized that I had a lot more to learn. Needless to say, Sanjay challenged me and I’m grateful for it.

What I remember most about Sanjay is his career advice. Sanjay said to me on many occasions, “Carsley, you either own your career or someone else will.” He wanted me to build a plan for myself, advocate for what I wanted and seek out support to get me there. He wanted to make sure my professional goals were known by those who could help me achieve them.

I spoke to Sanjay a couple of months ago and it’s evident to me that he continues to take his own advice. He’s doing what he loves and is continuing to learn new things on a daily basis. He is owning his career. He is a self-advocate.

Self-Advocacy Outside of Work

Being a doctor is a hard job. You’re entrusted with the physical and emotional wellbeing of your patients and the smallest mistake can have grave consequences. I can’t imagine the stress our medical professionals deal with on a regular basis and I have nothing but respect and admiration for them.

Being a patient is an even harder job. If you are sick or have a medical condition, you’re putting your faith in the hands of someone who may have never met you. Doctors and nurses often have to make decisions based on the information they have, which can oftentimes be incomplete. 

My wife recently experienced this at our fertility clinic. She suffers from chronic back issues and our fertility doctor recommended fertility drug injections not too far from the area that usually causes her pain. Rather than blindly accept the doctor’s advice, she spoke up for herself and asked for a different form of treatment. The nurse commended her for her self-advocacy and actually said, “I wish more people would speak up like you did.”

Start self-advocating immediately

Take time this week to think about aspects in your life that are important to you. Are your needs and concerns known by those who can help you? If not, make a plan to share them.

For more ideas on how to self-advocate, feel free to read this article from 

Finally, take a moment to read more about Google’s IamRemarkable initiative.

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