I am really excited about this article, not just because it is a continuation of my article “Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor“, but because it helped me forge my road map and i believe it will help you forge yours.
The previous article talked about forging business relationships that will help your career. It was on what sponsorship is about, the difference between a sponsor and a mentor, how sponsorship works and you as a protege.
This article focuses more on your relationship with yourself. “Road Map for Proteges” is the second part of the book “Forget a mentor, find a Sponsor” written by Sylvia Ann Hewlett. You will read about the third part next week so do not miss out on these series.
There are seven key things to do in getting your road map, I’ll explain briefly on each of the points so you know what to do.
- Embrace your dream and do a diagnostic – Do you have a vision for yourself? A clear picture of your career destination? Do you know what your success will look and feel like? Answering these questions honestly will help you “build your castle“. Building your castle helps you see what you are working towards. Also, you should dare to dream. embrace your God-given right to power, influence, agency and impact. Commit to building the castle regardless of your age because the reality is you do not have time. Assess what you have; what you have done, what you have proven you can do, what you are ready to do again. Catalog only your strengths.
- Scan the horizon for potential sponsors – You are going to need help. Look out for powerful executives who see your skills and lobby for your relocation. People who would ensure “other candidates don’t beat you to the finish line“. Your approach should be along this line “if i turn down my other options and do a great job for you on your project, would you commit to helping me get a job?” not plain out “would you sponsor me”. Choose your targets carefully. Put efficacy over affinity. Role models are great to have but they do not make effective sponsors. Do not be put off by leadership style. You need to respect your sponsor and not vow to become him or her. Friends do not make the best sponsors. What you need is a strategic ally. By all means, impress your boss, but seek as your sponsor someone with the power to change your career. Get in front of would be sponsors. Attend networking events, conferences and informal gatherings Approach a target sponsor and suggest collaborating on a project of interest to that person. Propose a quid pro quo. Identify ways you might help your sponsor solve a looming business challenge.
- Distribute your risk – You now have a sponsor who has taken an interest in you, gone out on a limb for you and lobbied your promotion, if tomorrow the person left, could you survive and thrive? You are not bullet proof with just one sponsor. Cultivate one or two sponsors outside your firm in at least a medium size to a large firm and one or two sponsors in your firm. Increase your internal visibility at your firm, increase your external visibility, figure out the levelers of power and work for them. Timing is everything when you think your job is under siege. Be proactive. as soon as you see the handwriting on the wall, mobilize your external as well as internal champions.
- Understand that it is not all about you – You have become a blazing talent. Senior leaders want you on their team or special project. You are being tapped for leadership development. If you think that this attention you have been shown is all about you then you may have already squandered your opportunity. What sponsors are looking for, above all, is a protege who will deliver and be loyal and reliable. So communicate with your sponsor and signal that you will be a contributor.
- Come through on two obvious fronts – Performance and Loyalty. For performance, you deliver outstanding bottom-line results, hit targets and deadlines and display an impressive work ethic and availability. For loyalty, demonstrate trustworthiness and discretion and having your sponsors back, burnish your sponsors brand across the organization and grow your sponsor’s legacy. Be able to recite. Get the word out on your successes. Work with peers to sing each other’s praise.
- Develop and deploy your currency – The power of difference. Rest assured, you absolutely have an important piece of value to leverage. You just may not be projecting it. Ask yourself or others; Am i innately different from my peers? Does my background, experience or schooling make me unique? What skill sets do i have that set me apart? How does my perspective differ from that of others? What informs my perspective that doesn’t inform theirs? What approach do i bring to solving thorny problems? How might this approach distinguish me from my peers? Currency here means skills. So identify the currency you already have and lift it up. Acquire skills that your current job doesn’t require but sets you apart from your colleagues.Reverse-mentor. This means you bring to your sponsor the skill sets or know-how she lacks. Innovate.
- Lean in and lead with a yes – Attitude is everything. Hold back on sharing your reservations until you are in a position to negotiate. Just say yes. Say yes even if you know it is a qualified no. Save yes for your sponsor, propose solutions rather than present problems Think through how you can make the opportunity work best for you. You owe it to yourself to give yourself the latitude you’ll need to succeed. Lead with this solution when negotiating steps.