Want To Advance Your Career? Seek Out A Sponsor

10.8.13 Sponsor

Story provided by Forbes

When you think of people who have sponsors, you probably conjure images of professional cyclists or race-car drivers with company logos emblazoned on their outfits. But there’s a different kind of sponsorship that any professional—not just big-name athletes—can use to their benefit.

In her new book, “,” economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett hails sponsors as modern-day career linchpins. “Like mentors, sponsors can advise and steer you, but their chief role is to develop you as a leader,” Hewlett says. Translation: A mentor can guide you to the right doors, but a sponsor will help you knock them down—and even knock them down for you.

And Hewlett certainly knows a thing or two about the benefits of having a great sponsor. Before she went on to launch her highly successful think tank, the Center for Talent Innovation, she says that sponsorship was “crucial to my education and earning a coveted spot at Cambridge University.”

Given her positive experiences, we asked Hewlett to share her top tips for attracting the right sponsor—and the key mistakes to avoid along the way.

Where did you get the idea to write this book?

I grew up in the poor Welsh mining valleys of Britain, and I knew early on that I wanted to have a better life than what my surroundings could offer. I was fortunate to have quite a few vital sponsors who supported my education and my career. I also learned early in life that meritocracy and hard work will only get you so far in this world—sponsors are the ones who really create traction for you, and bring your career to the next level.

What’s the difference between a sponsor and a mentor?

In short, mentors advise, while sponsors act. Sponsors deliver by making you visible to leaders within the company, as well as top people outside. They connect you to career opportunities, and provide air cover when you encounter trouble. When it comes to opening doors, they don’t stop with one promotion—they’ll see you to the threshold of power.

What should someone look for in a sponsor?

Role models are great, but they may not prove to be effective sponsors, so put efficacy over affinity. You need to be very strategic and tactful by looking for a sponsor with the power to change your career and become a strategic ally—someone with similar goals and aspirations. And don’t be put off by certain leadership styles; you need to respect your sponsor, not emulate him or her. In the end, it’s a sponsor’s clout, not style, that will turbocharge your career.

How do you ask someone to be your sponsor?

Sponsorship isn’t something that you can ask for or win—you must earn your way into it. Keep in mind that a sponsor’s reputation is on the line, so they are looking to feel completely confident that you will not only get the job done, but you’ll also excel at it. So to successfully find a sponsor, you must prove your worth, get them to trust you, and show your ability to deliver excellent results and performance.

How many sponsors does the average person need?

In today’s globalized economy, you cannot afford to put all of your eggs in one basket. The consensus in focus groups is what we’ve come to call the two-plus-one rule: Inside your organization you need two sponsors; outside, you need one.

In your book, you talk about how women especially need sponsorship. Why is that?

Often women languish in the “marzipan layer” of companies, which is that sticky middle slice of management where so many driven and talented people get stuck. But our research at the Center for Talent Innovation shows that sponsors, not mentors, put you on the path to power and influence by affecting three things: pay raises, high-profile assignments and promotions.

We also learned that the individuals who are most satisfied with their rate of advancement are those with sponsors: Fully 70% of sponsored men and 68% of sponsored women feel that they are progressing through the ranks at a satisfactory pace, compared to 57% of their unsponsored peers.

Tags: (Forget a Mentor) Find a Sponsor: The New Way to Fast Track Your Career, Advance Your Career, , LearnVest, Penny Wrenn, Seek Out A Sponsor, Sylvia Ann Hewlett. Bookmark the permalink.

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