Question of the Week from Arlington, VA

What happens if I ask someone to be my sponsor and they turned me down?

You can survive a very long time in your career without a mentor, but you will not move upward in any organization without a sponsor, therefore the sponsor relationship is the most important relationship of the three key relationships that you need in your career, the advisor, the mentor and the sponsor (see Chapter 5, in Expect to Win).

The sponsor relationship is so critical to your ability to move upward in any organization, you cannot let the challenge of finding a sponsor deter you from finding one nor can you allow one person’s inability or unwillingness to sponsor you, stop you from continuing to seek out a sponsor. Many of us tend to shy away from the challenge of finding a sponsor, if we ask one person to act in that relationship capacity and they so ‘no’. We let the rejection completely paralyze us or deter us from continuing the journey of finding a sponsor. If you ask someone to be your sponsor and they decline, then you should mentally say to yourself, “next”. Move on to the next person that could potentially sponsor you, but you should understand WHY that person does not want to sponsor you. That could be VERY valuable data for you to have.

There are generally three reasons that someone might not be willing to sponsor you:

  1. The person might not feel that he/she has enough information about you or has not worked with you enough to have credibility behind closed doors representing your interests. If he/she cannot demonstrate behind closed doors that he/she has first hand experience and can passionately represent your candidacy, then he/she will not be able to achieve the desired outcome for you;
  2. you might think that the person has the power (“the juice”) to achieve the objective for you, but he/she might know that they do not really have the power to accomplish the objective for you at the decision making table, and obviously in most cases, someone that you thought of and approached as a perspective sponsor would not want to admit that to you;
  3. he/she might not think that you are the appropriate candidate for the opportunity, for the promotion, for the top pay,etc.

Whatever the reason might be that the person turns you down, you should endeavor to get the data, evaluate it, own it, and then move on to find another sponsor after you have evaluated if you have to make any adjustments to your performance, behavior, style, etc.