Attract a Sponsor by Being Present
Research shows that sponsorship confers a 22-30 percent career benefit for women.* Today, too few women make it to top of the corporate power pyramid. In professional realms, sponsorship can be a game changer that rockets a woman’s profile and career into the stratosphere. There’s no denying it, women fortunate enough to have sponsors have a distinct advantage.
But where are these sponsors, and how does a high-performing woman find one? It is much more likely that your sponsor will find (and vet) you, than you ‘finding’ them. A potential sponsor is most likely not your manager, or your manager’s manager. To be effective, they’re typically three or more levels above you. They’re viewing the landscape from 10,000 feet and decide that there is a strategic advantage, or synergy that can be gained from advancing your career. Sponsors play chess, not checkers.
Unlike a mentor, a sponsor doesn’t act for purely altruistic reasons. There are similarities between personal sponsorships and corporate sponsorships for marketing purposes. Think, Nationwide’s sponsorship of NASCAR events and Nike’s PGA sponsorship. Corporate relationships like this exist to create synergies that benefit the sponsor; and so it is with personal sponsorships.
Visibility is one if the keys to attracting a sponsor. Women who aspire to corporate leadership positions must not only work hard, but work smart by finding ways to stand out in a competitive field, crowded with talented professionals.
In Part I of this blog post we look at the importance of being present.
‘Being present’ means just that: you have to show up! This requires an exposure strategy. Often, women underestimate the benefits of being noticed outside the work environment.
Ask yourself: “Who is seeing me and how are they seeing me? How often do I get out of the office? Do I head home straight from work everyday? Do I make an effort to be seen where people of power and influence congregate? How is Google finding me?” If senior leadership is what you seek, reconsider how and where you spend your time.
Engaging with philanthropic organizations, political groups and business leadership networks is an ideal way to gain visibility and build relationships with influencers in and outside of your organization. They offer the opportunity to be seen and heard without layers of management to obscure their view.
Consider joining or simply attending luncheons and events hosted by organizations like the City Club of Chicago or Economic Club of Chicago. Groups like these often host speakers who address timely business, political and social topics. It’s an enjoyable way to form meaningful connections with people with whom you share common interests and gain visibility in new circles.
Can you think of unique ways that you have been able to create ‘break out’ visibility for yourself? Tune in for Part II, a discussion about presence; how to create positive and memorable impressions wherever you go.
*”The Sponsor Effect: Breaking Through the Last Glass Ceiling,” The Harvard Business Review, December 2010.