“Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”
Out of context this could be about religion and interpretation of the Bible but that’s not what this is about. I am using the example to point out a danger all of us in the Corporate World live with for most of our career: the risk of being left alone, with no support at all or even being pushed under the bus.
In my years working for Corporations, one thing I learnt the hard way: you need friends. I know we can get lost in semantics around this so I’ll try to clear this out even more. By friends I do not mean people that will pay favors to you, expecting to gain leverage further ahead on you. I mean people that will believe in you, trust and empower you so you know when you’re headed in the right direction or more importantly, in the wrong one.
Do you know what’s the difference between a friend and a Sponsor within a Company though? That’s the first think you need to be able to do: differentiate between just honest friends and true sponsors.
A Sponsor is someone that’s known and respected within your Company ecosystem, Senior to you and who can help you position better and accelerate your career.
You can have many friends like that in a Company that are really honest with you and just tell you what you think. A Sponsor’s ability to tell you why something you’re doing is wrong and how it can affect your career and then help you redirect your efforts in the right directions is what ultimately makes them a good Sponsor. They can position you better, help you grow but you need to ask yourself they whys and the hows around that.
But finding one is not easy. It’s not just about going around and parading yourself as much as it is about working hard and showing your potential and commitment. Someone will notice that and if you’re lucky enough, will want to talk to you about that, and help you get places. There is a number of reasons why they would do this and it’s important for you that you know these before trying to find a Sponsor.
- Good sponsors want to help. You will see this and be able to differentiate between a good one or a bad one is that they genuinely want to help you, for who you are. A fake one will try to use you, rather than help you.
- They might be taking a risk with you, but they still decide to do it. Do not make this a personal point, it’s an actual fact. If they sponsor you within your Company and you just don’t deliver, that might hurt their reputation. A good Sponsor will never tell you this, but you can’t ignore the fact that they make a conscious decision when helping you and at some point they might be exposed. They just accept it.
- They believe in you or your promise. Best sponsors ever are those who really believe in what you’re doing. They will fight for you because they see the future benefits that can bring to you, to them or to the Company.
- They are there for you. They will pick up your calls and answer your emails but remember, they are Senior to you, maybe even way above you or your boss. Their time is valuable and they will value you more if you respect this.
- The more you share, the more they will. Keep them in the loop, show them, share as much as you can. That way you are feeding them the information they can work on, based on their experience, to help and support you. If you don’t share enough, they might loose interest and won’t be able to remain sponsoring you.
- They do have a personal or business gain. Which only makes them as humans and career-driven as you are. The difference between a good one and a bad one though is more around are they using you as a success story or to engross their resumé, or are they pushing you forward so your success empowers theirs?
- They can pull away if they stop believing. Faith is not a constant for anyone. All believers need proof at some point and reminders and if you have a Sponsor, and a good one at that, you need to show them they are doing the right thing believing in you, all the time.
Think of it this way: having a sponsor will never hurt you. Not having one, or loosing one can.
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