Choosing a Sponsor

As I write in Chapter 5 of Expect To Win, a sponsor is the most important professional relationship that you need to have if you want to maximize your success in your environment. You can survive a very long time in your career without a mentor, but you will NOT be able to ascend within any organization without a sponsor.

A sponsor is the person that is using his or her professional and social capital on your behalf. They are carrying your paper into the room, as I like to say. Behind closed doors they will argue passionately on your behalf as to why you should get the promotion, stellar bonus, or the new opportunity.  The question that I frequently get when I am speaking about “the Pearls” is “what is the profile of an ideal sponsor?”

Your ideal sponsor is someone who has had significant exposure to you and your work output. They do not have to be your direct boss or supervisor, although sometimes this can be the case. The person needs to have enough exposure to you and your work, so that they can be credible at the decision making table when arguing why you should get the great opportunity or promotion.  Secondly, the person must have power within the organization and must be a respected voice.  If the person does not have a direct seat at the decision making table, they must be able to influence someone who does have that power.  As I like to say, your sponsor needs to have juice. They need to be able to get it done on your behalf, whatever “it” happens to be a raise, bonus, promotion, etc.  Lastly, the person needs to be passionate about you, what you have done for the organization, and your career trajectory.  They must be passionate and a believer in you. They should also be willing and able to recruit others to your success team and garner more support for you within the organization.

A sponsor is the most important relationship that you can have within your professional career.  As I have said many times before, you cannot do it on your own. Your intelligence, hard work, and experience are necessary in your objective of maximizing your success, necessary, but not sufficient. You will need relationships and other people and the sponsor relationship is the most important one that you can have.