December 23, 2015 at 1:45 PM #13659
Research says that to get ahead in your career you need mentors to help you refine your style and sponsors to promote you behind the scenes for stretch assignments and new opportunities.
Do you really need both? How do you get them? How do you work with them to make sure they’re able to help you achieve the kind of career satisfaction you want?
Share your tips and questions below.January 12, 2016 at 4:30 PM #14226
This is true. You need someone to call you on what you do, and you need someone to talk you up when you aren’t in the room and introduce you to new people.
I know it has been hard for me to get either. I have had mentors, but more recently I have wanted to develop that type of relationship with a woman, or man, leader. Being shy makes it challenging. And I think it can be more challenging the more senior you get. I know for the women I want to be a mentor are usually super busy and very powerful so I’m a little intimidated to start that type of relationship with them. Same with a sponsor. I’m not quite sure how to approach them.January 12, 2016 at 4:59 PM #14227
Hey Mary. Yes, the challenges you describe are common. You’re totally not alone. The best advice I have for getting a mentor is to identify people you admire and approach them with (1) insights as to what you admire about them and (2) questions designed to encourage them to share their insights and wisdom (and feedback with you). Sometimes this is only a single conversation that makes you both feel good and sometimes it’s the beginning of a mentoring relationship. Also, think about what you have to offer them when you approach them. Maybe you have insight or information you think they might value (or you can find out what you have to offer when talking to them). Then giving the info/insight etc. is your excuse to follow up with them in the future and try to start to build a good relationship that goes both ways in terms of providing value. In cultivating mentors (or mentees) it’s really about relationship development more than anything.
Sponsors are a different matter. There it’s usually a matter of noticing that someone thinks you do a good job and then communicating to them what kind of future opportunities you WANT in the future and tell them that if they see any opportunity to open a door for you, you’d be very appreciative. You can follow up with them too–especially if there’s something of value you can offer them. The challenge with Sponsors is that to be effective at promoting you they need to do more than like you. They need to KNOW your work and be able to vouch for it personally with the people that matter to your future (e.g., clients, bosses etc.). The good news is that this narrows the field. Look for the people you’ve worked with (i.e., who know your work) and identify the ones who are in a position to help you out by recommending you. Make a point to touch base with them at least twice over the next year. Keep your short list of potential sponsors top-of-mind and make sure they always know what you’re up to and what you’re looking for. Then their sponsorship will be more natural and easy for both of you.
Sometimes you can get a mentor AND sponsor out of the deal when you develop a relationship, but more often than not it’s one or the other.
I love this topic! It’s so rich and deep. Looking forward to advice from others too!January 12, 2016 at 5:07 PM #14228
Thanks, Dana! This is super helpful…and I feel much better reading your advice. I do have sponsors – I just didn’t fully realize that. ha
But the mentor side is hard for me. I’ll try what you suggest. I get super intimidated sometimes I guess it’s something I’ll have to work thru and try…
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