How to Find a Sponsor to Turbo-Boost Your Career

Part III of the ‘How to Negotiate Effective Relationships with Mentors and Sponsors to Advance Your Career’ series

How would you like a personal champion in the workplace? Having a sponsor is an extremely effective way to hyper-boost your career and get you better opportunities. Yet, this approach is rarely talked about. This is partially due to lack of awareness about what a sponsor is, how they can help, and how to form these relationships. Let’s uncover this well-kept secret so you can take advantage of the benefits a sponsor offers. 

Knowing what a sponsor is and what they can do for you is the first step to boosting your career. This is particularly important for women, as research shows that women tend to be over-mentored but under-sponsored. Having a mentor is important but it isn’t enough to turbo-boost your career on its own. The combination of mentors and sponsors will help you climb higher faster. Mentors help you skill-up while sponsors help you move up. 

Effective use of mentors, sponsors, allies and coaches is one of the fastest ways to launch your career. As with most things in life, this is a negotiation, both in terms of negotiating your mindset and the workplace negotiations that lead to best sponsor relationships. My work with clients on this issue can have profound positive impact. I wanted to share some insights with you. This mini-series is designed to raise your awareness about how to find them, how to use them most effectively, and how to maintain positive relationships.

In Part I of this series, we highlighted the difference between sponsors, mentors, allies, and coaches. In Part II of this series, we talked about how to find mentors to boost your career. Today we are going to discuss who makes a good sponsor, and how to attract potential sponsors to maximize your opportunities. Sponsors are equally as important as mentors and play a powerful role in your career advancement. Though we often confuse these two roles, they are actually very different.

What is a Sponsor?

A sponsor is someone who can help open doors for you and create a path for better opportunities. They bring up your name when you aren’t around and speak about your strengths in rooms you don’t have access to. They help ensure you get access to promotions and opportunities that may not have been available to you otherwise. Sponsors speak about you and help you behind the scenes, using their internal capital within the organization to move you forward.  

Praises from a sponsor can be a great way to get your name out there and climb the ladder. Not having a sponsor requires you to put in much more work and effort to get yourself noticed. However, some people have sponsors that they don’t even know are advocating for them. 

Who Makes a Good Sponsor

A good sponsor is usually someone who has authority and influence, and therefore the power to make big things happen for you. In other words, you want someone with the requisite juice to be heard. Ideally your sponsor will also offer a safety net and help insulate you to the extent possible in the case of downsizing, layoffs, reorganizations, or other organizational changes. 

When looking for a sponsor, it is a good idea to look to see who is in your network already. From there, you can also expand your search to find who you would want in your network. 

Asking for a Sponsor vs. Attracting a Sponsor Organically

Asking someone with authority to be a sponsor is an option, but most of the time sponsorships happen organically. Typically, you don’t choose them; they choose you. And so, it’s important to take steps to attract the right sponsor(s). 

Usually getting a sponsor requires confidence, knowledge and acting with intention. If you do all the right things to attract a sponsor, and act with intention, sponsors will see your capabilities and the relationship will evolve naturally. 

How to Attract a Quality Sponsor

Make Yourself Indispensable

Putting yourself out there and performing to the best of your ability is the best way to get a sponsor. Work hard to be seen an expert in your field. You want to be seen as somebody who is the best at what they do, who is a leader, and who brings something unique to the table. Make sure you have a good work ethic and an impressive portfolio. 

Another way to attract a sponsor is to make yourself indispensable. If you are proactive, taking on big projects, going above and beyond call of duty and taking on extra work, this will make you indispensable. If you fill gaps in your organization that weren’t being filled before, it will really catch the attention of potential sponsors. Get involved in a variety of projects and grow your network. 

Connect Over Shared Interests

Connecting with potential sponsors is important and shared interests is a great way to do this. If you have common passions and interests, this can catch the attention of people you may not have spoken to or built relationships with otherwise. This applies for both work-related passions and interests, and non-work-related ones such as sports, music, causes, or other hobbies. This can lead to strong personal relationships, and through spending time together, the sponsor will see your professional potential. 

Be Visible 

Don’t work under the radar. Keep track of your accomplishments within the organization (and beyond). Ensure your achievements are noticed. Share your victories when possible. Have an ‘elevator pitch’ ready so when you meet a potential high-powered sponsor at an event, meeting or otherwise, you have an introduction ready that showcases your strong suits. 

Share Your Goals

Be sure you have clarity about your own goals within the organization and be sure to share those goals with upper management. If you don’t know where you want to go, others won’t be able to take you there. 

These tips are sure to help you find the sponsors to help turbo-boost your career. Negotiating simple mindset shifts will help you with your confidence and help you act intentionally to find sponsors that will advance your career.

Stay tuned for the next part in the series, where we’ll discuss allies, coaches and connectors. 

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Are you looking to up level your negotiation skills

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be indispensable, goals, Shared interests, Sponsors, Visibility


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