Field Notes: Self-Advocacy is Not Selfish

July 12, 2021
  • Committees and Caucuses
  • Professional Development and Contributions to the Field
  • women's caucus
Self Advocacy

"Field Notes" is a regular Connect column covering practical and philosophical issues facing admissions and registrar professionals. The columns are authored by various AACRAO members. If you have an idea for a column and would like to contribute, please send an email to the editor at connect@aacrao.org.

By Laura RemillardChair, AACRAO Women’s Caucus, Associate Director of Graduate Admissions, Stanford University.

Have you ever worked at a company where you wanted to ask for a promotion but never did? Is it hard for you to speak up at meetings or when speaking to your manager? These are questions that many people ask themselves, and the answer is called self-advocacy. As a member of the Stanford Women in Technology initiative, Education and Training committee, we have addressed this and other related topics. The following information is based on our presentation on self-advocacy.

Know Yourself

In regard to advocating for yourself, we find that many are apprehensive for a variety of reasons: they would be viewed as pushy or less likable, they want to avoid conflict, they are afraid of rejection, they feel undeserving, or they feel they would damage their reputation or relationships. Whatever the reason, once the opportunity is lost, it is easy to feel dissatisfied, have self-doubt, or feel mispresented. It may take some self-reflection but being honest with yourself is a precursor to advocating for yourself. Author Nora Roberts said, “If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.” 

Self-advocacy can start with small steps. Ask yourself what you want and what you need. Then ask yourself what is at stake if you don’t advocate? What good things could happen if you do? Then list a few reasons why you are worthy of what you are advocating for. You will want to know your audience (Who are you asking? Where can you find the common ground? How might they resist?). Collecting the necessary data is also important (What are the facts? What data can support your case?) Then, visualize the meeting (Show positive emotion with body language and tone. Be confident. State your case clearly.) Then practice!

Start Small

If this is too much and you simply want to be heard at a meeting, here are some tips: Sit near the center of the table; jump into the conversation tactfully; speak confidently and clearly; watch your body language, and don’t let yourself be interrupted. As with advocating for larger issues, practicing for smaller matters is just as important. Finding an ally whom you can work with and confide in is important and will help you build self-confidence.

Having a community to support you is also valuable. The AACRAO Women’s Caucus is a great network and has provided professional development related to self-promotion. With these additional resources, you can build your skills for self-advocacy and succeed.