Career

How I Learned to Advocate for Myself at Work and Beyond

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February 9, 2022

I recently went through one of the toughest times of my life. I started a new job, pursued professional certifications, and traveled all over the country for my clients - while grieving multiple miscarriages. It all came to a head when I was told I had an unfixable condition that would cause recurrent miscarriages, at the same time that I was asked to take on our toughest client at work. I’ve always had difficulty prioritizing my needs, but I knew that now was as good a time as ever to ask God to step in. Thankfully, through prayer, reflection, and spiritual direction, He showed me a few ways to start advocating for myself personally and professionally. Here’s how I did it:

Have the courage to question your current situation.

After my miscarriages, I was unsatisfied with the support I received at my doctor’s office. Rather than stay put, I decided to find a better fit. 

My first step was to find a different doctor, a different test, and anything that could point to a solution for my inability to carry children. Luckily through family, persistence, and hormonal crying to more than one very nice receptionist, I found an appropriate specialist. I received a new diagnosis that required surgery, but had a more positive outlook than my initial diagnosis (or rather, lack thereof!).

Be professional and direct, but also human.

With this new diagnosis came many doctors’ appointments and the surgery itself, which all quickly got in the way of travel and meetings with a new challenging client at work. He accused me of being unavailable and inconsistent, and requested that my boss step in on the project in my place.

Of course my initial reaction was to postpone the surgery – I felt like my career was on the line. But the situation caused me to finally look inside myself and think about what was most important to me. I ended up calmly responding that I was navigating medical issues, and that I’d appreciate his patience as I resolve them over the following weeks. Luckily, he stopped questioning my conflicts and I continued to work on the project. 

With clients questioning my dedication, I was nervous about my boss questioning my ability to deliver. Having only been at the company a few months, we were still building a working relationship, let alone a personal one. Somewhat out of desperation, I decided to finally tell her about my situation. However, instead of asking for permission to move around and take time off (while apologizing profusely for inconveniences), I simply stated what I needed to do. To my relief, she didn’t question it and actually went on to tell me about a similar medical issue she dealt with. Now, I work around my own schedule with no questions asked, and I have another advocate (my boss) in my corner for future challenges.

Knowing your worth means advocating for what you need.

Amidst all of this, my company gave me a mid-year raise and my client offered me a job at their company. Somehow, during a time when I felt like I was both underperforming and asking for too much, they thought I was actually worth more. I couldn’t believe it. It solidified for me that advocating for my needs didn’t devalue my work or abilities, but instead instilled others’ confidence in them. I now draw on this experience for the self-confidence to assert myself.

As Catholics, we’re told to be attentive to the needs of others. I used to think that meant being passive about my own needs, especially in my professional life. What I now know is that advocating for myself allows me to live as the integrated person I’m designed to be - human and all.

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