When asked “are sponsors and mentors the same…if not what is the difference?” a female executive responded to me and said, “No, mentors talk to you and sponsors talk for you.”
This answer was so simple yet profound. In just a few words, it all made sense. I’m not sure if this is foreign to you or not but I was totally unaware for years of the impact an influential sponsor could have on your career success. I guess because I spent my early career struggling and failing miserably and often void of direction from any leader.
Back in 2008, I attracted the sponsorship of an influential department head with the “gift of gab.” This shifted my career in a positive way. After working extremely hard to change the perception about me as an emerging woman leader, he finally took notice.
A couple years prior I began making strategic moves to re-position myself as a leader in the organization. My deliberate plan to take ownership of my career by a more hands-on managerial approach was successful. I began speaking up for myself causing my leader to be more accountable in regards to how he would help me get ahead. I took pride in completing mini-assignments that no one wanted to do or had no time to focus on. I found a way to systemize it then I communicated often about it. In fact, I made myself the go-to person (secret leadership tip)!
When a special project became available (that I was unaware of but could be a game-changer for), my mentor was asked if I could do the job. Another male individual had been identified as a candidate as well but I was ultimately selected.
I worked with my husband’s support to make the best of my new assignment. I produced great results. With a large team of about 40 people and working overtime to improve our processes, we went from a 79% to 99% success rate in merely 6 to 9 months. Needless to say, the department manager was receiving raving reviews from site management resulting in a BIG promotion.
So, what happened to me? The department manager became a sponsor for me. He lobbied for me to be re-located to the largest and best site in Texas and transition into a global role. My career was finally taking off.
A sponsor acts as a support to your career development. They speak on your behalf careful to influence others on why you are the best choice. They are typically two levels above you in large companies. They recommend you for opportunities that move you further along and will develop you as a leader. They are spokespersons or voices for you.
My sponsor would give me feedback all the time. He would often say that he would go to bat for me but I needed to give him the right size bat to swing with. The results I consistently produced generated a log in his hand rather than a tiny stick. This allowed him to influence management that I needed a change for my career to continue to progress.
How do you attract the attention of a sponsor? Glad, you asked!
5 tips to attract an influential sponsor
- Be engaged
- Make yourself sellable and easy to represent by adding value
- Deliver consistent results
- Define and live up to your personal brand
- Get others to talk about you often (especially your immediate leader and his colleagues)
What are the benefits of sponsorship?
- You are more visible to leaders within the organization.
- You are connected to career opportunities.
- You are protected by your sponsor when trouble ensues.
- You secure pay raises, high profile assignments, and promotions.
Read this great article “Sylvia Ann Hewlett: Find A Sponsor Instead Of A Mentor” on Forbes. What’s the best way you can attract a sponsor? What things are you doing right? What would you change about your behavior in the workplace?
Strategy #8 is up next. We are almost complete with this eCourse but I want to hear from you. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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