You may have heard that you need a sponsor to help insure your career success. I fully agree with this advice and support my clients in creating sponsor relationships that work.
Many clients will ask me “How do I pick a career sponsor?” Here are three key things to look for as you evaluate potential sponsors for your career:
1. They demonstrate belief in your skills, ability and potential and are willing to risk advocating for you.
Selecting a sponsor who is willing to put their reputation on the line for you is critical. You want to select someone who has demonstrated to you that they believe in you and in some way have invested in your development.
2. They have a seat at the table and their voice is respected.
It is not enough to select someone who is invited to the staffing meeting; their voice needs to carry some weight. In other words, they have the political capital in the organization to get you the career opportunities aligned with your objectives. I have seen first hand what happens when people who lack the capital in the organization to make things happen sponsor you. You end up stuck, never knowing why your sponsor has not been able to deliver.
3. They are willing to “block and tackle” when necessary.
Ideally, you want someone who will protect you in the event things go bad or you fail to meet expectations. You also want to choose someone willing to remove barriers to your success especially the landmines you may be unaware of. Having a sponsor who can position you for the key stretch stretch assignments (and get you the support you need while on assignment) is critical for you to be successful in the role.
Sponsorship relationships don’t just happen, they take focused attention and often times they happen organically, so make sure you are doing those things necessary to gain exposure to leaders who can advocate for your career objectives.
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