The Power of Advocating for Yourself in Business
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

Taking a cue from Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own: “There’s no crying in business!” Well, I didn’t cry, but my feelings were hurt. I have spent a number of years connecting people with one another. I happily refer to myself as the person who ‘introduces chocolate to peanut butter.’ Well, what happens when you realize that you haven’t positioned yourself to be introduced to the right people? That’s exactly what happened to me recently. I came across an event related to relationships and I would’ve been a perfect fit … if I had been top of mind for the organizer.

This is not about delusions of grandeur. I actually reached out to the organizer and he agreed. But no need for me to cry and I surely can’t blame him. I have to blame myself—and fix the issue. I often intuitively think of others when I see opportunities for their businesses, but that is not the default position for many of us. It is our own duty to ensure that people know what we do.

And not only is it imperative that decision-makers and others in our network know what we do, but they need to understand and be able to identify how what we do can meet their needs when they arise—or conversely, explain what we do to others so they can refer us.

My recent missed opportunity created an opportunity for me to reflect upon my own behaviors and course correct. The word “ask” played over and over in my head.

Closed mouths don’t get fed.

We must advocate for ourselves. When negotiating for a client I know that I must achieve her business goals, it’s my job. I find ways to ensure that when a contract is signed my client has the deal she envisioned and is happy with the outcome. However, when advocating on my own behalf, I don’t always fight as hard. Hence the saying, a lawyer who represents herself has a fool for a client. Well, there is no room for such foolery when we’re entrepreneurs. We must advocate for ourselves.

Many of us were raised not to ‘brag.’ I’ve often read that when giving a talk it’s best for a presenter to request someone else read the presenter’s bio to the audience. Even though the presenter has written the words, it is more socially palatable to have someone else tell others of our accolades. And that’s because we fear sounding like we’re bragging if we deliver our own.

Well, that advice may work well in public speaking introductions, but when we need people to know what we do so that they can think of us when opportunities arise it is imperative that we tell people what we do. We’ve all been around folks who blather on and on about themselves and it’s awful. Who wants to be that guy? Not us!

Nonetheless, when you hear of an opportunity, throw your hat into the ring and be your own best advocate. Being your own advocate is not a bad thing. In fact, if you believe that your product or service solves a problem for someone else and it helps you feel less apprehensive, then think of yourself as advocating for the other person. Explain why you are a perfect fit for an opportunity or exactly what you do should a future opportunity arise so you come to mind immediately as someone who can add value to them.

No opportunity is a missed opportunity.

In my case I didn’t hear about the opportunity until the event was announced, but that didn’t stop me from reaching out to the organizer and reminding him about what I do, and offering my support for the event. Of course it would have been preferable to be included officially, but offering to help is another way to stay top of mind and will also expose you to organizers and others involved with a project.

Maybe you won’t be paid or have your name up in lights if you come on board late, however being involved in another capacity can still yield dividends for your business. Also, it can be double goodwill in that the other person may feel badly that he didn’t consider you for the present opportunity and you were such a good sport and offered to help any way. So when the next opportunity arises he will absolutely think of you.

In closing, I’m reminded of a story Donna Brazile shared. While she was a member of President Clinton‘s Cabinet she entered a meeting room and noticed that her name placard had been placed on a chair on the periphery of the room and not on the table. She almost sat in the chair against the wall, then a little voice told her, “ut uh, you deserve to sit at the table.” She recalls swapping her placard with another that was on the table and taking her rightful seat. The Earth continued to spin and no one ever spoke of the incident. She took her rightful place at the president’s table. So should you. Don’t be afraid to speak up about what you do and take advantage of opportunities to shine.

Have you ever shied away from advocating for yourself or saw what would have been a great opportunity for your business had you known about the opportunity? Leave a comment below.

Michelle Y. Talbert, Esq. is a DC-based, NY-bred relationship strategist and social media content producer. She produces and co-hosts the popular weekly podcast, They Met Online…, in addition to writing about successful relationship strategies in business and in love. She’s a passionate startup founder and was a member of the 2014 Lean Startup DC contest winning team. Connect with her on Twitter @MichelleTalbert and LinkedIn.

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Michelle Y. Talbert, Esq.

Michelle Y. Talbert, is a recovering attorney and writer who hosts the podcast, 'Her Power Hustle.' She recorded her first podcast episode in 2009 and launched Her Power Hustle in early 2015 in response to being overwhelmed with inquiries for success and networking help from women entrepreneurs. Through interviews from the entrepreneurial trenches and sharing resources and tips, the podcast and Her Power Hustle Facebook Community provide inspiration and motivation to empower women for the perspiration associated with being a woman entrepreneur. She has interviewed business and media titans including Dave McClure, Guy Kawasaki, Pat Flynn and Black Enterprise's own Caroline V. Clarke and Paul C. Brunson. In 2015, she was invited to the White House by its Office of Digital Strategy to cover President Obama's State of the Union Address from the White House as a Social Media Influencer, and has been featured in EBONY, Forbes and USA Today. Her 'Her Power Platform Program,' helps entrepreneurs and other creatives create beneficial relationships Online and In Real Life AND Get a Return of Value on those Relationships. Michelle is a native New Yorker but you can find her loving life in South Florida.


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