When I saw this quote on Pinterest I had to copy it and use it for this. How true. Today I attended a Career Development Networking Event put on by my firm. Normally I find these things boring and it always feels like they are all just reading from the same script and …. most of the time it’s true. Even today, most of the things we heard at the event were not novel ideas. Actually, all of the things we heard are tried and true and the case of the speaker, these were things that got her to where she is today.
So why am I writing about this one today? Well, there was something different about this particular event. I got a lot from it. Perhaps it was just the right time and I was ready to listen…. sometimes you have to be ready to listen… did you know that? Sometimes the message gets lost because you’re not ready to hear what the messenger has to say.
So…. where was I? Ohhh yes. So, the networking event. There were the normal topics: How did you get to where you are? Do you feel like it’s more difficult for women to achieve? Pardon me for saying this but I’ve always thought these questions were so “uninspiring.” I don’t believe that my career progression will necessarily follow the path that this particular person’s career path followed, nor do I think that I am not given the chance to succeed because I’m a woman. Perhaps I’m naive but I’ve never felt as if my career was being sabotaged because of my gender…. Ok, maybe once but that was not a gender issue it was a ….. I was not his type issue … hahaha.
Eventually we got to the meat of the issue and he stuff that totally made me change my mind about this type of networking event. There were quite a few things I took away from this talk.
First of all, we should all have mentors. That’s true and I’m sure you have all heard about mentors. I am almost certain that if you work in any type of a corporate setting in the United States, you have most likely been matched up with a mentor or have become someone’s mentor. These relationships, although valid and helpful, need to be further developed if they are to come to any type of fruition. A mentor is someone who is going to help you figure out where you want to go. Someone who will show you how to navigate the company, someone who will show you how to speak up when you need to speak up. However, a mentor is most of the time not someone who will go to the fire for you. Those are the relationships you should be trying to grow. The sponsor….. that will be the person who has clout in the organization. Someone who has been where you are and sees your potential and will be able to ensure that you have a seat at the table. Most of the time, when you work in a large organization, these are the people who will bring you along. If you don’t have these people you won’t be able to get to the table …. Heck, you won’t even be able to get to the floor that has the room where the table is located, much less get a seat at the table.
Am I saying that a sponsor cannot be a mentor? Nope. That is not what I’m saying. Depending on who your mentors are, some of them may be good sponsors. Are they able to get you to the next level? Are they willing to get you to the next level? When you are trying to grow your career these are all the questions you should be asking yourself and then set out to find these mentors/sponsors.
Because a sponsor has so much to lose by sponsoring you, these relationships take a very long time to develop. These are those relationships that you foster for years and years. Perhaps from the time that you get out of school and work for someone and that someone sees your potential. These are not the types of relationships you go up to someone and say “will you sponsor me?”
So how do you get a sponsor? Believe it or not, you get a sponsor by doing your best job in the present moment. Do a great job at what you do, in your current position. Take on that stretch assignment and let someone hire up know you are taking on that job and then set out to do the best job you can.
Finally, when develop relationships at all levels of the organization. You never know who the person in the elevator is going to turn out to be. When I say develop relationship I don’t mean say hello or go out for coffee once and then don’t see the person again until you need something. That is not a relationship…. well, it is but it’s a one sided relationship. Take the time to get to know the person and make sure that the person gets to know you. Keep your eyes and ears opened for opportunities to shine and listen for opportunities where you can help that person as well.
I really enjoyed this talk and will be discussing other aspects of Career Development. I hope you enjoyed as well. Please let me know if there is anything else you’d like to know.