I heard from a gentleman this week who represents many of you. Specifically, he was trying to decide whether to pursue becoming an independent patient advocate – or not – because he wasn’t sure if he knew enough to be able to handle every client situation that comes his way.
He wanted a pep talk. He wanted me to convince him he knows enough.
“If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you’re right.”
The truth is – it’s not really that simple. In fairness, self-doubt about the ability to do anything new plagues all of us. Whether it was your first job babysitting or bagging groceries, or you’re changing careers at mid-life, or even starting up an encore career at age 60+… you’re putting yourself out there, you’re testing your own mettle, and you’re taking a risk. The very definition of risk taking means it could go badly.
But something about his question quite bothered me. It noodled around in my head for a little while, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized he had asked the wrong question.
I don’t think his concern should be whether he knows enough about the advocacy work itself because, first, almost any help he provides to assist others will be better than what they are getting now, and second, because one of the most important lessons we teach advocates is to reach out to the appropriate others when you are faced with questions and needs outside your own competencies.
So what would the right question be> There are actually a few:
- Am I ready to be in business for myself, with an understanding of the legal and marketing aspects the work in front of me?
- Am I funded well enough to carry my expenses for 6+ months while I build a business and begin deriving income?
- Do I fully understand and embrace the Health Advocate’s Code of Conduct and Professional Standards?
- When I need help, whether it is business assistance or help for my clients that I can’t provide, have I already uncovered the resources that can help fill those gaps so I’ll be prepared to help when the need arises?
Mary Kay’s quotation was about being confident, and absolutely, we advocates need confidence. The very core of advocacy requires confidence! If we aren’t confident enough in the business we will conduct and the assistance we will provide, then we won’t make it. Period.
But it’s possible the gentleman’s discomfort and lack of confidence are more about the fact that he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, than about whether or not he can help everyone who asks him for help.
So – how is he supposed to figure it out> There are so many resources available to do that! Begin with Health Advocate Resources. Join The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates (and download the freebie booklet called Getting Started as a Health or Patient Advocate) or purchase The Health Advocate’s Start and Grow Your Own Practice Handbook. Jump into the APHA Discussion Forum. Attend workshops to help bring it all together.
By immersing yourself in the environment of advocacy, and finding others to connect and discuss with, eventually (short or long term) you’ll develop that right list of questions, and that confidence to plunge in with both feet. Or – you’ll determine that it’s the not the right fit – an equally important outcome when it just isn’t.
Once the answers align – THAT is when you will realize you have gained the confidence needed to take the steps you wish to take, to fulfill the dreams you wish to fulfill.
Should those dreams include helping others get the healthcare they need and deserve, you’ll no longer be asking the wrong questions. You will know you CAN.