Guest Blog — Written by Hammersmith, Fulham, Ealing and Hounslow Mind
There are so many careers to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start, or what to change to if you want to try something different. If you’re looking for a career with real meaning, where you’ll be able to make a difference and genuinely improve people’s lives, advocacy could be for you.
What is advocacy?
An advocate is an independent professional that speaks for someone who may not be able to speak for themselves. Advocates help their clients achieve their goals by listening to them, helping them understand their rights, providing them with options and choices to help empower them to take control of their lives. Advocates do not make decisions on behalf of their clients.
Advocates all work towards the Advocacy Charter that underpins and governs the work they do.
What you need to work in advocacyEmpathy
Advocates need a high degree of empathy to be successful. Being able to understand how your clients feel, and why, is important in being able to help them be fully understood by organisations that have the power to make a difference in their lives.
You are working for the client and take instruction from the client to ensure their voice is heard.
Advocates must ensure, at all costs, that they take instruction from the client and do as instructed.
The advocate should not be influenced by other organisations or work in a way that disempowers clients.
Communication and Listening Skills
A good advocate is able to listen to their clients and understand what their clients’ issues are.
A good advocate is also able to communicate effectively to everyone they work with, whether that’s their client, the organisation they’re liaising with, case workers, or the local authority.
With the client, and advocate needs to be able to explain processes or situations. They need to take instruction from their client on how the client wants to proceed with their case. They also need to help empower the client to speak up for themselves.
With organisations, advocates need to be able to explain the needs of their client, why their clients want certain changes made, and how this should proceed.
Communication isn’t only knowing what to say, it’s about knowing when to not say anything. Advocates often need to keep information confidential. This is incredibly important and helps keep people safe.
Why advocacy is a great field to work inYou directly help resolve clients’ problems
One of the most rewarding things about working in advocacy is that you get to help people improve their situations.
Whether it’s creating action plans, improving access to resources or infrastructure, or just helping a client feel understood, advocacy has a direct positive impact on people who need help.
Advocates may play a role in helping vulnerable people take the first step to recovery, or greater and more secure sense of wellbeing.
You help to improve services
A large part of working in advocacy is dealing with social services, community organisations, and government agencies. Advocates facilitate meetings to discuss their clients’ needs with the organisation that can help. Throughout this process, as an advocate, you have a unique position to point out how processes could be smoother, simpler, or more effective.
The systems that influence these processes aren’t set in stone. Advocates have regularly made the case for why things need to change or improve, and had a great impact on making things better for other advocates and clients who they will never even meet.
You help clients improve their self-advocacy skills
One of the most important things advocates do is help their clients improve their ability to articulate their own needs and desires, to make them able to advocate for themselves.
Advocacy often starts with gathering information on behalf of the client, helping them understand their position, their rights, and who they need to speak to in order to make changes.
Eventually, advocates may be able to help their clients understand this information, and act on it, to such a point that they no longer require an advocate at all.
At this point, the client can be considered able to self-advocate, and are better able to navigate things by themselves.
Advocacy is an incredibly rewarding field, where you can directly help people in difficult situations, and empower them to improve their own lives.
Learn more about advocacy, or check out Morgan Hunt’s candidate section.