A recent Catalyst study demonstrates that mentoring does not help career advancement to the degree that sponsorship does. Mentoring is defined as career advice and guidance and sponsorship is advocacy. Usually sponsors have more senior positions than mentors, and it is their responsibility to advocate for an individual and pull them up the ranks to a top level position in the company. The study shows that men receive more sponsorship than women and this has a direct relationship to the number of men promoted to top positions. Women receive more mentoring and, in fact, are sometimes “mentored to death” with no upward mobility.
The recommendation from Harvard Business Review and Catalyst is for organizations to adopt formal sponsorship programs similar to IBM Europe. Companies now understand the impact of diversifying their talent pool, especially in leadership roles.
However, the companies that have formal sponsorship programs are few and far between.
High performing women need to take control of their own career advancement. They need to advocate for an advocate or sponsor. They need to be their own PR specialist every day.
Here are some suggestions:
- Be proactive, intentional, and strategic. Communicate your intention to advance your career.
- Let others know within the organization that you are seeking a sponsor. Your mentor might be able to help identify and facilitate this.
- Create visibility and credibility for yourself in the organization.
o Take on high profile projects.
o Make sure your position has P&L responsibility.
- Identify your value proposition. What do you bring to the table?
- Develop your web of influence (key stakeholders, decision makers, influencers, connectors) to assist you in reaching your goal.
o Build and leverage these relationships.
- Learn to communicate your value.
o Talk about what you bring to the table and tie it to business outcomes and results for maximum impact.
- Broaden your influence outside the company.
o Develop your subject matter expertise through social media, community organizations and board positions.
Here’s the bottom line: you need to take control of your career. If you have the goal of sitting in the C-Suite, start by communicating this goal to others and find out how you can get a sponsor to take you under his/her wings and move you up the ranks. You need to advocate for an advocate and create the visibility and credibility within the organization to get recognized and rewarded.
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