Growing up, I was never really taught how to navigate my career. A lot of the lessons I learned the hard way, by living through tough situations or making mistakes. Learning how to self-advocate for myself in three ways has been a game-changer.

Negotiating Pay

Whenever I used to get asked by potential employers what my pay requirements were, I’d either say a huge range which would result in them low-balling me, or I would base my answer off what I knew they were advertising the pay to be. A lot of the time, I was so excited about the thought of getting the jobs, that I didn’t see anything wrong with not negotiating my pay. But I was wrong. Today, this is something that I’m still not the best at, but I am getting there as I get more comfortable with owning my worth. Your work experiences should be working for you just as much as you are working for them.

Speaking Up

When I wasn’t working “career” jobs, the professional atmosphere in my workplace was different. As a daycare teacher, it was hard for me to separate work life and personal life because of the lack of structure. My boss would often disappear at the end of the day—when I was the last teacher left with a couple of kids—and it was my turn to clock out at 6 PM. After I let it go a couple of times in the beginning when she wasn’t there, and I couldn’t leave, she kept doing it. This would sometimes mess up my after work plans, and it made me grow to resent not only the job but also towards working for her. Today, I don’t let push come to shove before I choose to speak up. Your employer should never take advantage of you.

Drawing Boundaries

We all want to enjoy work and for me, making friends with my coworkers was one was to accomplish that. However, I quickly learned I needed to draw boundaries. My coworkers would sometimes use free time at work to vent, and while I did want to help and listen, I knew it was taking away from our ability to our jobs well. Although uncomfortable at first, I had to make it a point to ask if we could talk about it after work was over. There is a time and a place for everything, and work isn’t the best place to air out your dirty laundry or to catch up on co-worker’s personal events. Separating the two can get you out of trouble before you get there and help you to be more productive in fulfilling your tasks and goals.

Taking control of your career is a form of self-love. Speaking up for yourself in the workplace, especially as a woman, can sometimes be tough and uncomfortable. But negotiating pay, verbalizing our worth, and drawing boundaries are integral parts of fostering moments of growth, both professionally and personally.