Working Parents

8 Ways a Career Sponsor Could Help You Progress

Written by Verena Hefti, MBE.

After our last workshop on sponsorship, one of our Fellows courageously asked someone to be their career sponsor.

To her surprise, they said yes.

Thank you to this anonymous person for choosing to sponsor our Fellow, this is a very practical and evidence based approach to addressing the balance in senior leadership and supporting greater diversity (see, for example, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, 2016). 

The career sponsor asked the Fellow: what exactly can I do to sponsor you? 

I was so inspired by them that I committed to write a list of ideas in response.

Hopefully it is useful, feel free to let me know of any ideas you have!

8 ways a sponsor could help you progress your career:

1. Provide air cover so you can take perceived risks:

Do you want to try a new flexible working arrangement that has never been done before in your department? Your sponsor can back you when you are not there: “I know Shanna will make this work”.

2. Share what is keeping senior leaders awake at night right now:

There are some things that are on senior leaders’ minds that most staff aren’t aware about. If you know what they are, you will make a positive contribution and get noticed.

3. Highlight blind spots:

A sponsor can give you really candid feedback on the readiness for that next role and let you know what blind spots you have, i.e. what things you need to develop for the next role that you are not aware you are lacking.

4. Provide opportunities to get noticed:

Are there conferences you should attend? Are there meetings you should present at? Are there awards you should apply to? A sponsor may have insight and the connections to make sure you are present for key career opportunities.

5. Connect for coffees:

If there is something you are working on, do they know someone you should meet with for a quick virtual coffee to further your thinking? Remember, it is the second degree connections that make the best career progression.

6. Tell their peers “S/he’s good”:

When your name comes up in conversation, your sponsor can state their confidence in you.

7. Give inside information:

Where appropriate, your career sponsor can give you information that only a select few know that might affect career progression opportunities. For example, maybe a new department will be created soon that will need a leader, or that what the board really wants is more research proposals.

8. Offer budget insight:

If relevant, your career sponsor can give you inside tips on how to access pockets of unused budget for your idea which the budget holder is keen to get used before the financial year deadline.

Don’t forget:

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