Jeanne Schulze, MA, Senior Executive Coach

For the past 18 months, job seekers have experienced a world filled with multiple opportunities to leave their employers and sign on to something bigger and better. The ratio of offers to job seeker is 3:1. We know this as the Great Resignation. However, this phenomenon is beginning to wane as the economy shifts into more volatile territory. For now, staying in place is a viable option as long as you continue to build your career strategy.

If you are navigating career advancement in your current or a future company, consider finding a sponsor to help you gain assignments and exposure to people of influence in the organization. Simply defined, a sponsor is a leader who has positional power and who works to actively advance the career of those they are sponsoring. Sponsors differ from mentors in that mentors do not necessarily have positional power.

Several companies are leading the way and have implemented sponsorship programs, particularly for women and diverse talent. Besides providing coaching to future leadership candidates, these companies are also providing sponsor coaching to enable effective sponsorship. The payoff is two-fold for both the employee and the organization:

  1. Previously overlooked talent is elevated
  2. The company builds a strong and diverse pipeline of leaders ready to meet a very challenging and uncertain future

Based on research by The Center for Creative Leadership, here are actions that a sponsor takes to elevate the visibility and career progression of their sponsoree:

  1. Actively mentions skills and talents of their candidate to others in positions of authority
  2. Connects you to broader networks within and outside of the company
  3. Asks other influencers for feedback on your actual skills, not just their personality characteristics (to avoid gender or racial bias)
  4. Elevates the voices of women and people of color by raising difficult subjects with executive management that address roadblocks and obstacles
  5. Celebrates your accomplishments to encourage confidence and visibility

Finding a sponsor in your organization or your broader network is a great opportunity to learn and grow from their experiences, networks, and advocacy.

Is your organization culture open to sponsoring diverse talent?  What level/role should you be in? Who should you approach first to explore sponsorship in your company?  How do you identify and position yourself with a prospective sponsor? These are some questions we’ll address in our Part 2 “Growing Your Career with the Help of a Sponsor” post.