We see it every four years, a presidential candidate, either unknown or without the whole-heartedGermany, Bavaria, Munich, Business people using digital tablet, smiling trust of his party, all of a sudden is endorsed by a well-respected politician. We saw it when Bill Clinton backed President Obama in this year’s Democratic Convention. I can safely say we’ll see it again.

Typically, this sponsor is what helps push that identified successor to the next level. As if somehow the sponsor’s faith in that individual qualifies him or her even more for the task at hand. In the corporate world this is no different.

During the LEAP Face2Face workshop, there were a number of breakout sessions. One that I attended was on the importance and how-to of Mentoring and Sponsoring. Before we even got started we had to try and answer a question many have – what really is the difference between a mentor and a sponsor?

A sponsor is not a mentor. A mentor, as I described in a past post, is someone who helps you develop skills. They are a sounding board for your career. However, a sponsorship may develop out of a mentor relationship.

So, what is a sponsor?

A sponsor is someone that supports and promotes you for a particular role. Like the mentor-mentee relationship it’s a natural fit. This person knows you and your work. As discussed with the group of 12, sponsors must take 3 key actions in order to truly fit the definition.

  • They advocate for you, talking about you in a positive way to either the hiring manager
  • They would willingly and happily nominate you for your next role, vouching for your work
  • They have acknowledged the work you’ve done, to not just you but to others as well

If you think you have a sponsor, try testing them to be sure. When you’re applying for a new role, ask them to call on your behalf. Ask for their assistance on road blocks in your career you may have. Ask yourself, “is this person proactively trying to help me?”

If not, it’s okay. Eventually you will find one no matter who you are.

Although this was a heavily discussed point throughout the LEAP F2F sessions, sponsors aren’t gender specific. In order to get to the next level in today’s competitive corporate landscape you need to have one.

But how do you get a sponsor?

According to an article in The Way Women Network, you need to ask yourself 4 questions:

  1. Do I take initiative to invest in my development and taking on new projects?
  2. Do I make relatively significant contributions to my organization?
  3. Does the potential sponsor know who I am? Do I know what they think of me?
  4. Do I know where I want to go with my career? Can I articulate that path?

By answering yes to either all 4 or at least 3 of the 4, I’d say you’re well on your way to not only finding a sponsor, but also continuing to perform well.

What ways have you found are the best to obtain a sponsor?

Let me know by either commenting on this article or taking the conversation to Twitter @LindseyNNelson