How to Gain a Workplace Sponsor

One of the greatest determinants of success for ambitious middle level managers is the existence of a sponsor. Sponsorship, unlike mentorship, is a two-way street in which protégés and sponsors depend on one other to help each of their careers. A protégé offers her sponsor exceptional work product, loyalty, and a unique view of team and company dynamics; she can help him fulfil his goals and build his legacy. A sponsor provides his protégé with visibility, access to key projects, and the path to promotions and pay raises. While on the surface, sponsorship seems more advantageous to protégés than the other way around, the protégé needs to keep in mind she has a lot to offer. A confident mid-level professional is much more likely to attract sponsorship from a top level manager.

If you are looking for a sponsor (and you should be!), make sure that the sponsor you pursue has the respect of company leaders and is effective in pushing ideas through political channels at your office. He will then be able to enhance your professional stature. And although it’s nice to enjoy spending time with your sponsor, affinity isn’t critical. But trust is. Without trust, you can’t develop a healthy working relationship.

Once you have targeted a potential sponsor, look for opportunities to network or work on projects and committees with him. Collaboration will be the best method of you getting to know each other. And the ideal way to convince your potential sponsor to continue building a working relationship with you is to demonstrate specific talents that will benefit him. Do you have strong relationships in another part of the company which will be helpful to him? Do you have creative skills that complement his more analytical nature? What are the unique talents that your past managers have recognized? Whatever they are, market yourself by highlighting these abilities through your work and your discussions.

And since political winds change in the workplace, it’s best to develop sponsorship relationships with a few senior managers. You may consider one of them your primary and the other your secondary. But having two sponsors will protect you from having one become marginalized through a management change or from him leaving the company altogether.