3 Tips for Landing the Career Sponsor You Always Needed

A mentor is nice, but a sponsor is who will really help you get ahead

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Many professionals are aware of the impact a mentor can have on their career, but what about sponsors?

While mentors will help guide you along your career journey, sponsors are actually the individuals who will advocate for you to get that new position, promotion, or dream assignment when you’re not in the room.

According to research from the Center for Talent Innovation, people with sponsors are 23% more likely to move up in their career than those without sponsors.

[Related: How to Solve the Sponsorship Gap in Your Career]

“A sponsor is an advocate,” said AT&T’s Chief Diversity Officer Cynthia Marshall during a panel at Black Enterprise’s Women of Power Summit. “Someone who is willing to actually put their professional representation on the line to advocate for you.”

Marshall used a sports analogy to describe the difference between mentors and sponsors by referring to a mentor as your personal trainer and a sponsor as your actual agent. Similar to the sports world, mentors will be there to train and advise you as you navigate your career, but sponsors will be the ones to actually invest in you and speak on your behalf about why you are a great fit for that next opportunity.

While sponsors can be a bit harder to come by than mentors, below are some tips to help you develop a relationship with the sponsor you always needed.

1. Identify potential sponsors: Take time to identify the individuals in your industry who you admire and be deliberate about who you want your sponsor to be, advises Sharon Brogdon, director of Strategic Capability at Intel. Once you’ve identified who you want to be your sponsor, think of ways that they can not only benefit you but you can benefit them as well. Similar to a mentor and mentee relationship, a sponsorship relationship should be a two-way street.

2. Form a relationship with the assistant: While many executives may not be easy to access, Carol Fulp, president and CEO of The Partnerships Inc., says it’s important to examine an executive’s team to identify an intern or assistant you can get in touch with.

3. Send a personal note: Once you’ve made the initial connection with your desired sponsor or someone from their team, send a personal note to follow-up, which will show that you want to keep the relationship going and stay in touch, says Marshall.