Seven Ways to Find a Sponsor and Boost Your Career
As a corporate leader, I was privileged to mentor many individuals. At times, these mentees would ask if I would also be their sponsor. Now, mentors and sponsors can be very different roles, with similar attributes. It’s important to understand the distinction.
What is a mentor?
A mentor is someone who can be assigned by the company or just someone whom you seek out for guidance and coaching. Mentors are the senior advisors. They’ve usually been down the road you’re on, and they want to help you avoid the pitfalls, and maximize the experience. You can use a mentor to discuss situations, bounce ideas off of, or practice a solution. (Coaching is different from mentoring, by the way. In coaching, we are all about working with our clients using a structured method to find solutions and drive results).
What can a sponsor do to help you?
Now sponsors are those individuals who are in a position to “take you under their wing.” They are seasoned professionals who can open doors, “move mountains” on your behalf, talk to the right people about you, and groom you for more responsibility in the future. The sponsor invests in you and your career. They aren’t “assigned” to you in most situations, but you can seek them out and find them. Sponsorship is helpful beyond the corporate setting as well. Entrepreneurs can find sponsors very useful to help boost and grow their businesses. Really, any endeavor you may be involved in…be it for a salary or volunteering, can benefit by guidance from a sponsor. If you need doors opened of some sort (maybe high-end contributors to your nonprofit, for example), then a sponsor can help make this happen.
How can a sponsor find you?
I was very fortunate to have had two sponsors (each at different times) in my corporate career. These ladies were amazing. Each started out as my boss, and I was able to deliver results on some very high impact projects for each of them. As a result, they became sponsors. One was responsible for my initial promotion to management; the other for my promotions to senior management.
Generally, sponsors find you based on your work results and potential. This is very much a reciprocal relationship based on your potential and your sponsor’s interest. However, there are still things that you can do to maximize your selection as someone to be sponsored.
So where do you find a sponsor? Here are seven ways to become sponsored:
Start with results.
Notice that I had delivered for each of my sponsors. This is an excellent place to start. If you are consistently producing results or have delivered a huge project or initiative successfully, look around to see if you can cultivate a sponsor from the experience. Meet with this individual and discuss your career to see if there’s any interest. Sponsors are the ones who make the decision to move forward with you.
Determine who has the potential to be a sponsor.
Take some time to strategize this. Can your boss be a potential sponsor? Can you go around your boss to the next level up successfully (a tricky but “do-able” maneuver)? Are you talking to the right people? Who can sponsor you to your future goal destination?
Network with potential sponsors.
Find ways to get in front of potential sponsors and get to know each other. The more, the better! You can also discuss your need for sponsorship without coming out and asking directly, just to gauge interest.
Look for instances where sponsors are working with others already.
Network to get a better understanding of how sponsorship works in your organization.
Get a mentor or two or more!
Yes, you can ask to be mentored, and this is a great way to gain greater clarity and knowledge. Several mentors on your team can help to broaden your experience. Mentors can sometimes also become sponsors based on the situation, and a mentor is ALWAYS a good thing to have.
Find ways to volunteer or participate in activities outside of the office.
Believe it or not, I was “discovered” by one of my sponsors on the golf course when we were assigned to the same foursome. It was a golf game that forever changed my career and life.
Mentor and potentially sponsor others yourself.
It’s good to give back, even if it’s in anticipation! I was a mentor and sponsor in my organization because of the kindness that had been shown to me. Many sponsors are people who want to give back.
In most organizations, sponsorship is the key to climbing the ladder and getting things done effectively. Exploring sponsorship can be a start to a new and exciting path for your career.
Take some time to think about how a sponsor can help take your career, business, nonprofit, or activity to the next level. Reach out to grow your career through a mentor, sponsor, or career coach.
Lupe S. Wood, MS, PCC, is a Career/Executive Coach, and Author of the Monday Morning Inspiration, published weekly on Linked-In, and to her followers. Her specialties are untangling career challenges and choices through coaching for courageous results-oriented clients who need solutions NOW.
Contact [email protected] for more information.