For the longest time I believed hard work speaks for itself.
I was taught the way to win in life is to “work harder than anyone else”, so I did.
I worked myself to the ground, put in extra hours, went above and beyond and yet, I wasn’t making a lot of progress.
About halfway through my career I finally realized what was missing, and once I started doing what I needed to do - my career advanced a lot faster.
The realization that changes my career
I finally realized what was holding me back when I started working for Microsoft. Working for a big corporation where no one knew who I was made it clear I have to advocate for myself to get noticed.
Unfortunately many of us were told that our work will speak for itself. And I know this advice came with good intentions, but it’s misleading. Think about it this way, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, did it make a noise? It’s the same with your work. If the right people don’t know what you have achieved, it’s like it never happened.
But how do you actually do it?
How to grow your career through advocacy
1. Do it more often than you think you should
If you want to get noticed, you have to advocate for yourself ALL THE TIME.
Don’t believe me?
The average person sees between 5000 and 10000 ads per day. We are so overwhelmed with information that we can’t process it all. We actually need to see an ad at least 7 times to start paying attention.
If you compare that to the amount of information your boss is exposed to every day, you will understand they need to see your ads at least a few times to shape their perception. One time just isn’t enough.
So when it comes to your career, use repetition to make sure you advocate for yourself often enough to break through the noise.
2. Get your manager to do the work
You may have the best manager in the world, and yet, their main priority isn’t your career. That means they don’t walk around all day and sing your praise. Partly because they are busy, and partly because they have no idea what you are up to.
The best way to get your manager to advocate for you is to give them something to say. Simply put you need to make sure they know about your wins.
Too often people wait for their performance review to show their achievements, but that’s usually too late. There’s a better way to stay top of mind and make sure your manager is in the loop. Embed your wins into your 1:1s.
Most people use their one-on-one as an opportunity to solve problems, so they start with updates about everything that is going wrong. They rarely have time to talk about what’s going well.
Flip the order.
Start every one-on-one by sharing a win and focusing on the positive.
You’ll stay top of mind and you’ll get your wins across.
3. Get an insurance policy
People promote people. You probably heard me say that a million times, but it’s true. That means your manager isn’t the only person you need on your side. You need to expend your advocacy efforts and create an advocacy flywheel. I have a guide on how to do that here.
It’s also a way to get an insurance policy. You don’t want to spend all of your time building rapport just with your manager, only to have them leave or get shuffled in a reorg. You can’t afford to put all your eggs in one basket.
Make your career advancement inevitable
Advocacy is just one piece of the promotion puzzle, but an important one.
No one will ever care about your career as much as you do, so it is up to you to make sure your hard work is being recognized.
If you find it hard to advocate for yourself, this guide may be helpful.