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Mentors are great.  But a sponsor could really help your career


While much has been said about mentoring, mentors can advance your career in ways that mentors cannot. And while the two are often confused, there are some distinct differences.

In a mentorship, a more experienced person gives advice to a younger person. In a sponsorship, an older person proactively invests social capital and influence in a more junior person, according to Sylvia Ann Hewlett, economist and author of The sponsor effect.

Sponsors can get you noticed both inside and outside your business, creating opportunities that help you progress faster, and give you the confidence and courage to take risks. For example, a sponsor can directly recommend you for promotion, place you on an important work project, and in some cases even help you secure your first board seat.

So how can you attract and reach a potential sponsor in the workplace? These tips can help you:

Demonstrate your worth

It begins with you.

To attract a sponsor, you need to be performing at your highest level. Be reliable and consistent, meet deadlines, and strive to exceed expectations and achieve great results.

By performing well at work, you demonstrate your worth and potential – two qualities that will help attract a sponsor. You also prove a potential sponsor that they can feel comfortable putting their own reputation on the line and defending your interests.

“It’s about continuing to deliver performance, reliability and added value that will earn your long-term support,” Hewlett said.

Take an inventory of your assets

Take into account what you have accomplished and what you hope to accomplish in the future.

A sponsor cannot help you if you cannot clearly identify your strengths and abilities, but most importantly your goals. Knowing your goals helps your sponsor match you for the best opportunities.

Hewlett suggests scheduling a 15-minute discussion with a mentor or potential sponsor to present your strengths and goals.

“This can together create added value. The mark of a successful sponsorship relationship,” she said.

Ask them to be your mentor first, and then – providing reliability and added value – you can eventually turn that person into a proactive sponsor, she added.

Raise your hand to seize the opportunities

Visibility at work is extremely important. It is not enough to just keep your head down and do your job. You want to stand out. It can be difficult when working remotely, but there are ways to do it.

“Create a space for connection instead of the more impromptu nature of being in person or at the office,” said Christie Lindor, Founder and CEO of Tessi Consulting. “Geographic boundaries are no longer a barrier and social media has created the ability to reach more people directly than ever before. Take this unique moment and use this moment to think big and expand your reach.”

You can do this by attending virtual events, participating in discussions at team meetings, contributing to a larger project, or taking on an “extended assignment”.

Scalable assignments are typically a project, role, or task that is beyond your skill level or expertise. The purpose of these missions is to help “stretch” your development and unleash your potential. Some examples might include managing an intern, organizing an event, or launching a new product.

“Think about who knows you and your job, or who may have heard of you. Authenticity is key to fostering sponsorship relationships,” she said. “Ask a mentor or ally to support you with outreach opportunities within your target sponsor’s field of view.”

Identify potential sponsors

Know what kind of sponsor you are looking for and why it is important to understand it up front.

Lindor recommends creating a short list of one to three leaders in your organization or industry that you would like to attract as a sponsor.

Mentors are great.  But a sponsor could really help your career

From there, develop a strategy to have line of sight or visibility for your list of potential sponsors. You can do this by identifying opportunities to speak or work directly with a potential sponsor, such as attending events they will attend or working in a team they might lead. Then, research and learn more about common interests and values ​​that you might share with them.

Remember to be intentional.

“Being able to answer the question, ‘why do I want this person to sponsor me?’ While considering someone because of their star or celebrity status can be appealing, look for real points of connection instead, ”she said.

Build relationships

Make sure you build relationships within your organization or industry for a sponsorship opportunity to grow.

For example, your sponsor might be your manager or your manager’s manager – maybe even someone at a higher level or in a different department.

“Many of us work remotely and have difficulty connecting with people other than those with whom we come into direct contact on a daily basis,” said Toni Patterson, career mentor and strategist. “It’s a great excuse to reach out to someone and say, ‘If we had been in the office, I would have loved to open my head and introduce myself, but since that’s not possible right now, can we? meet us online for 20- minute coffee? Once you have them on the phone, you need to tell them what you are doing, what you aspire to and that you are ready to stretch and challenge yourself to do it. ”

But don’t be discouraged. If you reach out to someone and they don’t seem interested in supporting you, know that “no” can mean “not now,” Patterson said.

“Focus on building and building relationships. Over time, you will find the right person to be your sponsor.”

Follow up and stay ahead

Your success is the legacy of your sponsor. So don’t forget to make your own horn.

“Manage the relationship based on your sponsor’s work styles or organizational culture, learn how they prefer to communicate and adapt to maximize interactions,” Lindor said.

It is also your responsibility to make your upline look good and to nurture the relationship by doing your best.

And don’t forget to follow up.

“Once you’ve received that assignment, that promotion, or whatever your sponsorship relationship has helped you achieve, be sure to let your sponsor know how it’s going,” Patterson said.

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