5 tips for getting a career sponsor

Sponsors play a big part in your rise through the ranks at the workplace — all you have to do is find one.

Photos: ELLE Magazine Online & ING Image
Photos: ELLE Magazine Online & ING Image
15 Apr 2015

Photos: ELLE Magazine Online & ING Image

We’ve all heard of mentoring, but what’s sponsorship? Here’s the difference: while work mentors advise, sponsors act. They are well-connected backers who make you visible to leaders in the company and open doors for career opportunities. They are the ones who will help you through the “sticky” middle slice of management, just below senior leadership that many talented women find themselves stuck in. Here’s 5 tips on getting a sponsor (or three) of your own, to ease your way to the top.

1. Magic Number 3
1. Magic Number 3
15 Apr 2015

1. Magic Number 3

You can have more than one sponsor, in fact, three is the perfect number. “Find two within your organisation — one in your line of sight and one in a different department — and one externally. This ‘2+1’ rule will help you find sponsors that are independent of one another so if a sponsor gets fired or leaves, you still have a fallback.” Advises Ann Hewlet, author of Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor.

2. Know Who to Approach
2. Know Who to Approach
15 Apr 2015

2. Know Who to Approach

The level of leadership you need in a sponsor varies according to the scale of your organisation. In large organisations, Hewlet recommends securing a sponsor two notches above you while in small firms, it should either be the founder or the person with the founder’s ear.

3. Shine at Work
3. Shine at Work
15 Apr 2015

3. Shine at Work

It’s not easy getting a sponsor. Sponsors tend to seek out potential protégés directly, so you’ll need to work (hard) to attract their attention. “Make yourself known by asking a manager in their line of sight for extra assignments or request a meeting with your target sponsor to explain your ambitions,” says Hewlet.

4. Put Yourself Out There
4. Put Yourself Out There
15 Apr 2015

4. Put Yourself Out There

If access to your would-be sponsor isn’t so easy, “attend networking events, conferences, anything where you might be able to introduce yourself as a starting point”, suggests Donny Walford, managing director of Behind Closed Doors, an executive women’s networking program.

5. Confidence is Key
5. Confidence is Key
15 Apr 2015

5. Confidence is Key

Just as important as finding the right sponsor is being a killer protégé. Don’t be afraid to be forward in what you bring to the table, whether it’s people skills, technical savvy or fluency in languages. In some cases, it might even be expected — if a sponsor is putting their professional reputation on the line for your benefit, they understandably expect a return on investment.

The story '5 tips for getting a career sponsor' first appeared on ELLE Singapore 

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