During a job search, advocating for yourself is a must. Securing work is a solo affair, and if you don't promote yourself, no one else will. From an employer's initial inquiry to the final negotiations, it's essential to be your own biggest champion. Doing so can help you secure a better position and more favorable contract terms.
Start Early and Highlight Your Experience
Advocating for yourself should begin the first time you contact a potential employer. When you contact an employer to inquire about a job via email, mention your experience with statements such as "I'm a marketing executive with 10 years of experience" or "I'm an experienced professional engineer." Consider changing your email signature to reflect your expertise, using terms that are likely to resonate with the employer. Also, be sure to put greater emphasis on your relevant skills than on previous job titles.
Believe in Your Abilities
Self-confidence is essential to successfully advocating for yourself during a job hunt. After all, at each step of the process, employers expect you to promote your accomplishments and abilities. The key is to strike a balance between confidence and humility — in other words, you have faith in your skills, but you also know there's still a lot to learn. When you know your worth, it's easier to avoid settling, and you're more likely to negotiate a great compensation package and turn down offers that aren't in your best interests.
Look the Part
Your appearance communicates a great deal to a potential employer, so selecting appropriate clothing for interviews or meetings is a key part of advocating for yourself. As you pick out outfits, consider the message these outfits convey. Do they fit in with what's generally accepted in the industry? Are they neat and well-fitting? Are they likely to draw the wrong kind of attention? Although these things seem small, your attire silently communicates whether or not you're aware of social and professional norms and if you know how to work within them — skills that are essential to working with clients, attending conferences and being a brand ambassador for a company.
Leverage Your Contacts
Sometimes, advocating for yourself involves knowing how and when to leverage your professional network. That doesn't mean you can offload the task of tooting your own horn. Rather, you must learn how to use a professional contact when it's most effective. When you're just getting started, this might mean alerting your network to the search and confidently asking for referrals. Later in the game, it could involve asking a former colleague to put in a good word for you with a potential employer. It takes bravery to ask others for help during a job search, but doing so can give you a serious edge over the competition.
Advocating for yourself requires practice. Promoting yourself with confidence and grace may be uncomfortable at first but continue practicing. This skill is certain to serve you well in a job hunt and throughout your career.
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