By Guest Author, Jennifer Risi, Global Chief Communications Officer & Managing Director, Ogilvy Media Influence --- Ogilvy Public Relations
“Mentors give you perspective. Sponsors give you opportunities.” Cate Huston
The importance of sponsorship
While mentors are essential, women need to make sponsors a requirement to boost their careers. These two roles are often confused but are vastly different.
According to a 2011 Harvard Business Review special report, sponsors give advice, protect, promote, prepare and develop leaders, and they help build one’s reputation.
How to look for a sponsor
Seek powerfully positioned executives and yes you need more than one. It’s important to find those who have the influence to appoint future leaders. Look for a sponsor who will provide critical feedback, will take time to develop you professionally, and is willing to be your advocate.
There are several ways to locate sponsors. Make efforts to broaden your connections in order to widen your selection of influencers.
Your current workplace is an easy target for locating sponsors. Joining an external professional network consisting of influential leaders is also a good opportunity to cultivate relationships. Another option that is not as traditional is joining an advisory board with an organization that shares your passion possibly one your employer is currently involved in.
But it’s not as simple as selecting a sponsor and jump starting your journey. It begins with earning trust, proving you have what it takes through your talent and the willingness to do more than what is expected.
Keep in mind, you may not always share the same values but as long as the sponsors possess the qualities described, it’s all that matters.
Someone who has taken careful consideration to sponsor an individual is expecting results. It is your responsibility to showcase your strengths and take risks. Make it a point to speak up in meetings and presentations. Take credit for, and promote your achievements. Learn new skills and find ways to apply them to your job. Ask for the challenging assignments. Sponsors will take notice and there’s a benefit for them too. Sponsors are acquiring leadership skills, they help retain talent within the organization and they learn to recognize and promote future leaders.
There’s no downside to having a mentor and they are a benefit regardless of where you are in your career. In fact, you may end up with a lifelong friend. But if you find a sponsor who is willing to take a vested interest in your development in order for you to thrive, I urge you to jump at the opportunity.
Ogilvy PR's Elizabeth Carrion contributed to this blog.
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