How to Advocate for Yourself at Work

By Jennifer Andrus

How to Advocate for Yourself at Work

3.17.2022

By Jennifer Andrus

Work together, win together

Advocating for yourself in the workplace, especially for women, can be a touchy subject.

“Tooting your own horn” can come off like boasting, bragging or gloating about a success. The New York State Bar Association’s Women In Law Section and General Counsel’s Committee of the section, chaired by  Frettra DeSilva teamed up to tackle the thorny issue head on. The  NYSBA Business Law Section  and Kirkland & Ellis joined in co-sponsoring the event.

In a one-hour program, moderated by Joi Yvonne Bourgeois, four panelists shared tips and tactics to navigate promoting yourself in an effort to accelerate your career success.

Sheila Murphy, the founder of Focus Forward Consulting, kicked off the panel by assuring those in attendance that self promotion is a form of self care.

“You are taking care to make sure that you get what you need both in your career and your life and on top of that you are taking care of yourself,” she said.  “I am making sure people know my qualities and traits so they can make informed decisions as to whether they want to hire me or promote me. People can’t do those things if they don’t know who your are and what you do.”

Natalya Johnson, senior counsel at Johnson & Johnson, agrees, saying it’s time to reframe promotion as a positive term for women. “Self promotion provides visibility for my experiences, for my expertise and amplifying the causes and organizations that have my energy” she added.

She offered three tips. First, bring other people into your promotion. If you have co-workers on a project, post on Linked In about the work and tag them. Second, focus on informal promotion by talking to your colleague or boss about the work you are doing. Third, use external resources or your organization’s marketing department to promote larger projects.

Daisy Darvall, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, says we need to remove the feeling of shame from the conversation.  “You can’t self advocate unless you know your value and worth. No one will advocate for you like you will!”

Murphy echoed that sentiment by saying it’s important to own your narrative. “I know that it feels icky now and then this idea of self promotion and putting yourself out there, but let me tell you whether you put yourself out there or not, there is a story in people’s heads about who you are and what you do.” She says failing to be an advocate is a disservice to your firm, your clients and yourself.

Speaking Up and Taking On New Roles

Panelists were asked to share ideas on the disparity between women and men in the area of self promotion. Rippi Karda, assistant general counsel at Verizon Communications, says that men are better at stating their goals and asking for opportunities to take on new roles and projects while women can be deferential and don’t jump at the chance.  “You can take on additional responsibilities and learn as you go; you can find other resources. You don’t have to know it all; you just have to know that there is a plan you’ve got to concoct to figure it out.” She says this advice also helped in her work at the South Asian Bar Association of New Jersey for which she is the 2022 President-Elect.  

Johnson said she saw a need to include women of color as presenters in programs about technology law, real estate and other areas of practice. So, in 2019 she started her own program to give attorneys of color a platform. Even in promoting her event she was reticent to take credit for the work. That work did get her noticed and led to further leadership positions. Johnson is the current President-Elect of the Garden State Bar Association.

Karda shared how she got noticed while volunteering for projects that no one else wanted. She also sought out additional training.  If you need training or learning opportunities, you can find them here at the New York State Bar Association.  Consider it an investment in yourself and your career. It will help you and it will make you a better lawyer for your clients.  Johnson says sometimes success can be as simple as “just showing up. Show up and bring excellence to everything you do and others will take notice.”

You can see the entire 65 minute NYSBA program here

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