Wait! I know you probably think I’ve gone crazy, but hear me out first. After reading the title of this post, you’re probably thinking, “Work is the place where you’re supposed to keep your head down,” or, “Why should I care about making a change at work?” I know the typical protocol is to avoid speaking up and voicing your opinion because it may bite you in the butt later. I’ve been on that side of the coin, and it’s no fun. You’ll end up feeling small, voiceless, and stuck. Thankfully, I can say that I’ve been on the side of speaking up and speaking out, and it feels so good.
I’ve been at my job for just over a year now helping students with the college and financial aid process, and I absolutely love it. My juniors and seniors really rely on us for guidance in navigating the steps that come with applying to colleges and figuring out how to pay for it, and it feels good to be a footnote in their journey.
Even though my job is super rewarding because of all of the help we provide, we were missing the emotional support aspect of our role as counselors. This is a stressful time in these student’s lives as they go through the emotional rollercoaster of writing essays, submitting applications, applying for scholarships, and receiving both acceptances and rejections… and I didn’t even mention managing their school work and all of the clubs and sports they’re a part of. It’s a lot to balance, so I recommended that we start doing monthly emotional support check-ins for students who express that they’re struggling.
My idea was shot down by higher-ups because we’re not trained as mental health professionals, and providing emotional support would be “overstepping”. I was heartbroken because all I could think about were the students who weren’t in a life-threatening crisis but just wanted to know that someone was there for them emotionally. Thankfully, my boss saw this as a need for our students, and we advocated for it to the higher-ups. What we do requires us to talk about sensitive issues like citizenship status, past physical and mental abuse, and much more. Not offering emotional support while knowing what our students are going through is a disservice to them.
After sharing my ideas with my boss and letting the higher-ups hear my suggestions, I’m happy to share that we changed their minds! Because I spoke up and advocated for my students, they brought in a psychologist specializing in family mental health to give us training on how to emotionally support our students.
I know it’s much easier to just go to work, do your job, and come home to avoid any problems. For the most part, I agree with that. However, if you see something that needs to be changed for your sake or someone else’s, you should absolutely speak up if you feel safe to do so. It’s a new year of growth and self-improvement, and the one thing I know I need to work on is using my voice more. So, although it’s easier to stay quiet and stay to yourself, it may be better to use your voice to respectfully advocate for what’s right or what’s needed.
“It only takes one voice, at the right pitch, to start an avalanche.” — Dianna Hardy