The recent HBR article and Catalyst Research talks about the difference between mentors and sponsors. According to the research in the article, men and women generally have equal access to mentoring but men get greater sponsorship and therefore promotions.
Ever wonder where to find sponsors? They’re all around you, and here are 3 tips to find one near you.
I have been fortunate to have many sponsors that helped me throughout my career. They took risks on me, promoted me before I thought I was ready, gave me opportunities for exposure to other sponsors. Sponsors are important for both leaders in Corporate America and entrepreneurs.
A prelude to getting a sponsor assumes that you already have the skill sets, the work ethic, the results. That’s a necessary but not a sufficient in this game.
1) Pick The Right Ones – Two key criteria here. First, Sponsors must have power – to influence your career in your company or to help you grow your company. Second, they must be willing to put their reputation & credibility on the line for you. Both are important. Where to find them? In your company (priority #1), in your industry (priority #2), academics or others with connections whose work you admire. So start by making a list of potential sponsors and prioritize it. Next, approach them. Ask to meet with them for career advice or expertise on a project you’re working. Most people are flattered and will say yes!
2) Get Noticed. In my career in Corp America, most of my sponsors found me. In many large corporations, your presentation skills are an abnormally large proxy for your abilities, and I happen to be a pretty good presenter! Polish your presentation skills. Volunteer to be part of projects where potential sponsors are involved. Join industry groups or boards. Let them see you in action! Sponsors are always looking for great people. As a sponsor, what I look for is a spark in someone – great talent, initiative, passion for what they are doing, and the ability to get results!
3) Actively Give Back. While for many sponsors, your success is its own reward (it provides gratification for sponsoring you in the first place), look for ways you can be helpful to your sponsors. Express your genuine appreciation for what they do for you. Ask them how you can be of help to them. You’d be surprised about what you’ll learn. Each of us is in a position to be a sponsor for others. Take an active role in doing that. It’s good for karma.
What are other tips you have on finding a great sponsor?