“We were just talking about you in the meeting and everyone agrees that you are brilliant.”
An ideal day at work?
The truth is a majority of people’s perceptions or decisions made about you happen when you’re not in the room. Though you may not be able to participate in the conversation, there are steps you can take to make your voice heard, even when you’re not there. For those of you with a can-do attitude, here are a few areas to achieve the sponsorship you deserve and advance your career.
Get an influential sponsor
Let’s be clear—the person giving you career advice is NOT your sponsor, it’s a mentor and there’s a big difference. While advice is helpful, it won’t get you that promotion you are hoping for. A sponsor is a person who doesn’t just speak with you—they speak about you. It’s someone who wields power and helps position you for that next step in your career. Simply put, a mentor stands beside you, while a sponsor stands in front of you helping to propel you forward.
Be a winner with a “can-do” attitude. While you can simply ask someone to be a mentor, you must earn a sponsor. The good news is it can be done. When you are working for somebody, consistently outperform. Do things that matter to that person. Ultimately, you want your work to make your potential sponsor look very good. Don’t shrink from challenges. If you position yourself as someone who is going places, people will line up to support you. Do all of these things and you’re already on the yellow brick road to sponsorship.
Don’t allow your good work to be your best kept secret
Share your accomplishments with people who matter and have a platform to shout them out. For instance, at the completion of a difficult project, you could say; “my team worked long and hard, but we learned so much.”
Ask for Feedback
“Good job,” isn’t enough. Swing the door wide open and ask for feedback regularly, but do it the right way. Before any meeting, think about how you might ask for constructive criticism and always be open to it. “What did you like or what didn’t you like about that presentation? What could I have done differently?”
How to tell if someone is interested in sponsoring you
It could be the person who hired you or someone you worked on a big project with. Since you can’t just ask, consider testing the relationship. Ask for small things that might help you gauge their interest in you. Maybe it’s an introduction to someone or you offer to be their second set of eyes on something late at night. If they show interest, that’s a good sign.
Pay it forward
Think beyond yourself. If you are working with someone and they do a great job, let their manager know. “Bill represented you well on that project,” is one way to do this. It’s never too early to think about how you can sponsor someone, too.
These tricks may seem easier said than done, but when it comes down to it, spending time thinking about your skills, sponsors, and attitude can only stand to make you more aware of areas in which you may need to improve and grow your career.
Karyn Twaronite is responsible for maximizing the diversity of EY professionals by striving to continually further enhance EY’s inclusive culture across 150 countries in areas including the Americas, EMEIA, Japan and Asia Pacific. She is a Partner at Ernst & Young LLP and a member of the EY Global Practice Group, the EY Global Talent Executive, and the US Executive Committee.
Karyn also serves as the EY Americas Inclusiveness Officer, a position she has held since 2011. In addition to leading the EY Americas D&I team, she serves on the EY Americas Operating Sub-Committee and the EY Americas Talent Executive Committee, and co-chairs the EY Americas Inclusiveness Advisory Council.