Clearly to be a successful woman in tech requires more than just one thing. Women need to have skills and knowledge, be driven, passionate, creative, collaborative, strategic and often must have tough skin. However, there is one thing that most women either are unaware of or neglect as part of their arsenal for success; an effective and connected SPONSOR.
Having a sponsor can be the difference between impactful work versus trudging through your career. A professional sponsor is beyond a mentor. A sponsor is not only aware of your accomplishments but believes in your ability to reach your goals. They then not only encourage, advise and guide you to achieve the career goals you have set for yourself; they also leverage their relationships, network and position to open doors, set up meetings and making meaningful connections.
A sponsor creates opportunities for you to engage with people in new ways. These additional influences create opportunities to gain new experiences, develop new professional relationships and acquire knowledge. All of these benefits and more is why the high-value forms of sponsorship can catapult your career or business to new heights.
If you don’t have someone that you look to as a sponsor today, no worries this is something you can cultivate over the next few months.
Defining Your Goals
Many women ask “Who should be my Sponsor?” That depends on what you are looking to accomplish next. Different people will bring different levels of advice, connections, and recommendations forward. So before you start asking “Will you be my sponsor?” it is important to understand what you have already achieved and what you plan to impact next so you can align to people that can help facilitate your desired next steps.
The first step requires you take time to think carefully about your goals and what you will need to reach them. If you’re not sure, then, by all means, ask a coach or mentor to help you develop or refine your goals. I can assure you that you do not want to waste an opportunity with a potential sponsor, so getting your professional goals in order in a critical step to seize meaningful opportunities later.
When you get the chance to meet with potential sponsors, he or she could encourage you to:
- outline your career goals and discuss a preliminary plan to reach them.
- list your fears within an empathy environment.
- discuss ideas, risks and potential opportunities.
- identify a few things he or she could help you with to make your goals a reality.
Be prepared to hear honest feedback that may initially sound critical, but is given with respect.
There are three types of people to seek that can help you with the advancement of your career:
A coach is a person you hire to dig through your thoughts, experiences and goals to help you effective articulate your next desired steps. This is incredibly helpful as it is often the piece women skip and when asked by career catalyst where they could use some help, they often gloss over their desires leaving a potential catalyst with little to work with.
A mentor is often a person that gives you advice on how to move from here to there or maneuver a situation. When the conversation is done both parties often move along on their independent paths.
A sponsor is a person that talks to you about your goals, guides you in the right direction and endorses you to others when you are not around and could help facilitate your desired next steps. These sponsors are often critical to your promotions or next position or initiative because they are often highlighting your skills and contributions to the “right” people.
An Advisory Board are people you assemble within your inner circle upon whom you call for advice, guidance and elevation. This is often my approach to career catalyst as most professionals need different people for different things and have a group to pick from is extremely helpful. Note, your board changes over time. Be grateful for the ones that take time to help you facilitate your next desired path.
Important note: Women (and men), must actively pursue the career catalyst – NOT for where they are now – but more importantly where they want to create impact next. Here are a few steps to keep in mind:
First, set a bold goal to hand-pick the highest quality people. Don’t let guidance for such an important step fall to a default situation.
Second, ideally, your coaches, mentors, sponsors that define your advisory board should be people from different areas and with various viewpoints; don’t get caught up with titles.
Third, don’t limit yourself to assembling just one group of people. For example, I have three advisory boards:
- Tech Advisory Board
- Author and Speaker Advisory Board
- Family/Community Advisory Board
Finally, boards should be customized and effective. If you discover you have a knowledge gap on your board, take time to meet new professionals.
As you likely know, these relationships can be reciprocal. As you proactively select your coaches, mentors, sponsors to create your advisory board be sure you are being mindful of how you can help them in their professional journey.
Being a Sponsor
Finally, as you advance in your career, make sure to look behind you, around you and near you to extend a hand, an ear or take action to advance another young professional. It’s been called pay it forward or giving a leg up, but one thing is for sure; we have a duty to help others as we have been helped along the way.
I think it is important to note that these people may not be in your office or in your work network, they could be people tutoring your kids, waitressing your tables or even cleaning your house. Some of my most rewarding sponsorship work has been helping women in my life get their first professional job. I have helped them write their resumes, prepare for interviews, arrange a meeting with a hiring manager, or have even given them professional notebooks, computer bags, and attire.
As you know the smallest effort could make a life-changing impact! So define your goals, find your career catalyst and be a career catalyst for others.
JJ DiGeronimo, President of Tech Savvy Women, is award-wining author that works to share career strategies to advance professional women. Many professional women aspire to advance their career, but most encounter common obstacles because they don’t have “The Professional Playbook” to navigate corporate cultures. In JJ’s book Accelerate Your Impact, you’ll find the information that will help you strategically plan and execute your career plan. Download three chapters now of the professional playbook for women that includes initiatives to accelerate your professional growth. JJ has been quoted in numerous publications including Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and Fox Business.