Friday, September 9, 2011

Skip the Mentor, Find a Sponsor

Office Politics: A Rise to the TopImage by Alex E. Proimos via FlickrAs a young female rising star in the corporate world I had more mentors than I could count. There were the official mentors – the ones whose name showed up on a piece of paper as being “assigned” to help me succeed. There were the unofficial mentors – the people I felt a special connection with and sought out for advice. And there were managers – who were trained to coach as part of their job.

During my corporate career I mentored many employees – in all of the capacities above. But it was only in my role as manager that I felt my role as mentor extended to sponsorship. Looking back on it now, that was a mistake.

While mentorship – providing a role model, imparting advice and wisdom, and being a sounding board – is a valuable asset to an employee, the key to making it up the corporate ladder is getting the right opportunities and promotions.

What every employee needs is a sponsor.

A sponsor is someone who will put your name on the slate of candidates for the promotion, possibly even before you know the job is available. A sponsor is an advocate for you in the room where the decisions are being made. A sponsor can help you land the job, or (in some cases) keep a job.

But sponsorship is not just up to the mentors – the employee (or mentee) plays a key role here as well. Too often we are willing to believe that our skills and capabilities will get us ahead. We believe that if we deserve the promotion, it will come. We believe that if we are the most qualified we will get the job. Too often, that is not the case. Every employee needs to ask for the role he or she wants.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and find the sponsor who can help you succeed.


colbymarshall said...

What a good plan you have here. It's great to have contacts willing to stand up for you and get your name out there.

Joanne said...

Good advice, and I think it all stems from dedicated work. When we put forth the efforts, people are willing to support us.

Anonymous said...

Most Fitting. "Sponsorship" is an emerging topic for conversation. It would be great if you could write more on this topic.