It’s annual review time, and you are called in for your feedback session. They tell you that, again, you were rated as a high performer. Your career trajectory has been rapid so far, but you are starting to set your sights on the leadership levels in your organization. Your boss obviously knows you do great work. But who else knows? When it comes time to identify the company’s next set of leaders, is there someone in that conversation that is in your corner? Do they know what you want and how well you perform? Do you have a sponsor to represent your best interests when the best opportunities are discussed?
There is a tipping point in every career. Hard work alone will not maintain your career acceleration. Eventually, you will need support – the support of someone in a more senior position who can be your sponsor. The person who will put their own reputation on the line, speak on your behalf, and open doors to new opportunities and relationships.
But unlike a mentor, you can’t pick a sponsor. Sponsors must pick you. So how do you make yourself a top pick for a potential sponsor?
It is your responsibility to become known. First, you have to be a top performer. But that is just a baseline requirement. Senior people, who can sponsor you, need to know that their investment in you will pay off for you, for the company, and for them.
In short, you need to S.H.I.N.E. so they can see you:
Show up as a leader a sponsor would stake his/her reputation on
Help your sponsor articulate your value – know your unique gifts and strengths
Internalize feedback and take action
Nurture new relationships – never hang your hat on just one sponsor
Enlighten your sponsor with new intelligence he/she may not have access to
Over the next 5 weeks, we will expand on each of these tips to help you, as a potential sponsoree, establish a plan for engaging a career-accelerating sponsor. As you enter into this relationship, remember it is a two-way street.
As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “It’s not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.”
You have a responsibility to continue to perform at a high level, communicate with your sponsor about where you want to go so he or she can help you get there, and to reward their investment in you with a big return. If you aren’t willing to invest in yourself, you shouldn’t expect a sponsor to do so either.
Done well, the relationship should be a win/win/win. You win, your sponsor wins, and the company wins.