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Mentors & Sponsors: Who They Are and Where to Find Them
Mentorship and sponsorship are powerful tools for your success.
But as we all know, success doesn’t come easy when you have to do it alone. Moreover, it is tough to get on the radar of the right people who notice your potential and can help you with career advancement.
That is why having mentors and sponsors becomes important. They bring out the best in us.
A mentor and sponsor may not be the same person. At work, a mentor can help you become a better professional by developing better functional and leadership skills in you. A mentor is someone who shares knowledge, guides you and sometimes even coaches you. A sponsor is someone who is personally invested in your growth. They recommend you for new jobs, projects and put their credibility on the line for you.
Mentors & Sponsors: Where to Find Them?
You can find mentors and sponsors anywhere— in the workplace, professional network or even your personal acquaintances. Unlike what most people believe, mentors and sponsors don’t have to necessarily be people in the senior leadership positions. They can be your peers also.
In a lot of cases, sponsorship stems from mentorship. Sponsors are like brand managers or image managers who use their influence to sway people towards their protégé.
How to Make Someone Your Sponsor?
Sponsors invest, what could be called, their personal capital on you. They put their own credibility to publicise you or to influence others to move to your side.
Unlike mentorship which can originate from structured mentorship programs at your workplace, sponsorship doesn’t start in a structured way. So if you ask someone to be your sponsor, it is highly likely that they may say a no to you!
So how do you find a sponsor? Clearly, just asking someone isn’t the right way of going about it.
Sponsorship often results from close workplace relationships where a sponsor has seen the capabilities of the sponsored up and close. But it is more than just finding someone by chance. Here are three approaches that have helped in the past to find sponsors:
Be the expert: Cultivate skill set or knowledge which is unique to you. This means that everyone knows your expertise in a particular field of knowledge and hence it is easy to find a sponsor for yourself.
Be helpful: Become the go-to person for your leaders or team-mates for certain tasks. Be available to help others. Word travels fast and you become much more likely to find a sponsor.
Participate in activities beyond your scope of work: This is one of the most impactful ways to build any kind of relationship. These could be activities like planning for an offsite, working on employee engagement, taking on responsibility for solving a long standing complex problem in the company, or even managing hobby clubs.
These are just some of the ways that can open the gates for sponsorship for you. We need mentors and sponsors at all stages of life, not just at the start of our career. In companies sometimes senior leaders take up the roles of sponsors, so that they continue to invest their time in finding the new crop of leaders who will collectively work towards scaling up the organisation.
Do you have a mentor or a sponsor at work? What did you do to convince them to mentor or sponsor you?
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