Advocating for Yourself at Work

My first job was at Salesforce, and that set my career into motion. I knew that I wanted to be in management, and I certainly could have done it at Salesforce by following a very structured path.

However, I didn’t want to wait two years for my opportunity. So I ended up taking some risks—and they paid off. Through my experiences, I’ve learned what it takes to create the opportunities that I wanted.

Here are my top tips for advocating for yourself at work so that you can land the best opportunities:

1. Be willing to take risks.

Early in my career, I was pretty conservative. I eventually realized I needed to take risks. The good part about this job is that if a risk doesn’t pay off, it’s not going to be catastrophic. I’m not a heart surgeon—the next job is around the corner.

I took a big risk when I decided to leave Salesforce for Box. It was a lateral move, so I wasn’t guaranteed to get a promotion. At the time, Box was still in its early days. When I showed up to work at a warehouse next to an electronics store, I really did wonder if I’d made the right move.

Because I took that risk, I was able to take on experiences that would not have been previously available. During my six years, I built up a team and helped Box grow from a startup to a company that went public. The risk paid off.

2. Ask for opportunities when they come up and make the case for yourself.

While I was at Box, I walked by a recruiter who asked me if I knew anyone who wanted to be an SDR manager. That was the entire reason I came to Box! Clearly, I hadn’t done a good enough job communicating my goals. That was a mistake and I had some catching up to do.

I reached out to the recruiter and gained an understanding of the process. My biggest concern was that I’d only been there for six months at that point. It was tough to tell my manager that I was ditching him just as I was ramping up my quota.

Getting the opportunity to manage wasn’t just a matter of asking for it. I had to make a case for myself. I created a 30-60-90 plan and presented it to my Vice-President, who was tough. I had to convince her that I was the best person for the job. She really pushed me to make sure that my case was ironclad. Luckily, the CEO was a fan of internal promotions and from there everything took off.

To get the opportunity, I had to ask for it, make a case for myself, and be willing to have the hard conversations.

3. Learn from mentors who have succeeded at work and life.

I’ve found that mentors are critical for career advancement. My mentor used to be my manager; when she walked in the door with short hair and pink bangs, I thought right away that she was a cool person. She was—and also a great mentor to have on my side.

We worked together for a few years, but even after that she kept offering me mentorship for both career and life development. As a mom, she knows how to navigate work-life balance and relationships. Through her mentorship, I’ve been able to improve myself all around.

4. Understand the value of your contributions.

Early in my career, I struggled to have my voice heard. My CEO told me to speak up, and that blunt advice was really helpful.
Remember, you’re a really good salesperson. You have valuable insights to contribute. Feel confident in speaking up.

Sometimes it takes a few other people to nudge you and that’s okay. But if you can recognize your own value, you’ll have a much easier time of it.

Successfully advocating for yourself at work is definitely an ongoing project. By being mindful of the issue, you can access opportunities and make sure that your voice is heard.