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Will you be my Sponsor?

We always seem to hear of mentors, and many of us aspire to find one in a new company. That one person who we respect and appreciate their guidance. And many organisations are investing in mentorship programs, matchmaking and apparently doing wonders for growth and development. I have my doubts, but that is another story.

I recall the time I was recruiting for a specialised role on my team. I had clearly identified the skills and expertise I needed for this specialist role, so that they could hit the ground running. No one internally had the skills I was looking for. I had rightly rejected the internal applicants.

So why did I feel pressure from three senior leaders to interview one of them specifically. despite the fact that the CV credentials did not match up to those externals in my interview list.

So, I went along with it. She was a nice person, but that’s all. I could not take it any further which did not do my popularity any good. It played on my mind for a while, and it was only when I learnt that this person had an executive sponsor did, I understand why?

So, I asked myself the question - Is having a Sponsor even more critical to advancement than a mentor?

I say yes. A sponsor is your executive champion. They see you as their protégé. They can help drive your career, put in a word to aid your progression, build your senior network and visibility. More than often they are a senior level executive who will put a good word in for you at the Board meeting or with the CEO.

Mentors don’t always have the power to do that or the inclination. Having a sponsor is much more influential.

So, how do I get one. Attracting a sponsor does not come easily. It still seems to be an invisible concept and hidden away. In some cases, you may not even know you have one

It's those individuals who know how visually demonstrate their value are in the best place to attract one. Being able to promote your skill, building on that USP you are well known for, and being open to take on more opportunities, but cleverly taking on the ones that matter more to the Strategy of the organisation and leadership.

I can do that; I hear you say. But remember a sponsor whoever they may be, needs to have faith and confidence that their new protégé can and will deliver. Any let-downs will not only show up badly on you, but doubly on the sponsor’s reputation.

If you are lucky to have a sponsor, it can open doors for you, and have you prioritised for advancement and exciting initiatives at the table of decision making without you even knowing. just remember it can work for your favour and against!

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