While mentors advise, sponsors act.
Imagine this scenario. You have mapped out a career plan, you have an enviable tribe of mentors who give you amazing advice, you have even acquired new skills and taken some online courses to boost your capabilities. This should automatically result in career success, right? Well wrong, because you are still missing one critically important element.
Mentors are important in your career journey; a good mentor will give you the necessary coaching to scale through career challenges. A sponsor relationship is different, a good sponsor will take you to the next level of your career, opening doors and connecting you to opportunities that will facilitate your career growth.
A career sponsor is a senior colleague at your workplace or industry who is well respected and influential. He/she will speak positively of your work, make you noticeable at work, defend your reputation and ensure the progress of your career.
Here are 5 (five) steps to helping you find a career sponsor:
1. Identify a good sponsor: The first step to finding a career sponsor is to look out for one. Are there leaders at your workplace who speak well of their team members, support their ideas, offer them their guidance and speak up for them when necessary? That’s the kind of person you want in your corner.
2. Be good at your job: Your performance is your calling card. To attract a good sponsor, you must be stellar at your job. Being efficient and reliable at work will help you get noticed easily by a potential career sponsor.
3. Build relationships: Make yourself available and ready to work with others. Make use of opportunities that give you a chance to collaborate with people at your workplace and build relationships, join teams and be part of new projects. Seek avenues that enable you display your knowledge and expertise; you never can tell which sponsor is watching you.
4. Give value: Build a reputation as a problem solver. Aim to always offer solutions that will place you in the limelight. Be known as a worker who creates impact and who others can come to for help and ideas. Leaders who see you as a valuable asset will always want you on their team and this will create more visibility for you.
5. Target high-visibility projects: Put your hand up and volunteer for those projects and tasks that need to be done. Be proactive- don’t wait until you’re told; ask your boss if you can participate, and get the opportunity to meet and build relationships with key players in your workplace. Volunteering for stretch projects will give you visibility and expose you to senior people and key players in the workplace.
Practising these tips will help you attract the attention of the right people which will translate to career progression in the medium to long term.