Ellen is lucky to be one of the few women to be picked for her company’s official mentoring program. Ellen is excited, and reaches out to her assigned mentor, Chris.
Chris replies to her two weeks later, and they agree to have an introductory call to get to know each other.
But the call is awkward. Chris barely seems invested in the relationship. But most importantly, Ellen and Chris seem to have very different values.
Ellen: I’ve been performing well, so what do I need to do to be promoted to Sales Manager?
Chris: Oh, it’s all a game, and your performance doesn’t matter. You need to spin a story about how you’ve got all these clients eating out of your hands. And it’s easy to get clients to do that – they’re usually not very smart.”
Ellen is uncomfortable with the discussion. But as per the rules, they continue to connect once a month.
At the end of a year, when HR asks for feedback on the program, Ellen is honest. “It feels like a formality. I don’t think it’s working.”
Women often have few senior women to reach out to. And we may struggle to get men to back us up because they think we’re “different”. So what do we do?
We hope that the company will ‘pair’ us up with mentors and sponsors. And we imagine that if and when that happens, it’ll take care of all our problems.
But here’s the thing.
Mentorships and sponsorships are relationships. And the best relationships can’t be forced.
The best relationships are not the ones that follow the book on how it should work. They’re not just a check-the-box exercise. “OK, I took her out to lunch, so let me get that off my to-do list for this month.” And they’re not a one-way street either.
The best relationships are the ones where there is a genuine connection between the two people. Relationships where they mutually trust and respect each other. And where they sincerely want to help each other do their best.
Sure, sometimes we can get lucky with synthetic “matchmaking”. But most often, genuine relationships like these grow organically.
“Growing organically” – does that mean we leave it up to chance and hope that they happen on their own?
Winning mentors and sponsors takes initiative. It takes planning and effort. And as always, you are in the driver’s seat! In this module, we’ll see what you can do to earn yourself the mentors and sponsors you need to thrive in your career.
“But I’m just starting out my career, it’s too early!” “But I’m not expecting to be promoted anytime soon.” “But I’m already too senior.”
Building mentors and sponsors isn’t just for times when you’re looking for the big opportunities. It starts much before that.
And it doesn’t end when you reach your dream job either. In fact, one of the biggest reasons why people struggle to perform in their careers after a certain point is because they think “they’ve arrived” and know everything they need to.
No matter where you are in your career, you need to keep challenging yourself, growing and improving.
And having mentors and sponsors can be a great way to achieve that.
Building these relationships is a continuous, lifelong process.
And the sooner you start, the faster you’ll move up.
The earlier in your career you build a network of mentors and sponsors, the better you’ll perform in the jobs you’re given. The better you’ll prepare and position yourself for promotions. And the more opportunities you’ll give yourself to be pulled up for the stretch opportunities!
Why does having mentors and sponsors make such a big difference to our careers?
Because no matter how capable you are, you won’t have all the answers. And no matter how well you perform, you can’t get the big jobs unless someone believes in you.
You’ll need a support system of people you can turn to for advice. And you’ll need influential decision makers to trust you and pull you up.
But here’s the other thing. This also works the other way around.
The better connected you are, both internally and externally, the more you’re preferred for leadership positions. In fact, sometimes it may also be a criterion for being picked for the big jobs.
Because the company benefits from your internal and external connections.
Decision makers want to see that you can influence your way around the internal organization to get things done.
And they want to see that you have good client and industry contacts so you can work with them to bring value to the company.
Choosing a candidate with strong internal and external connections makes business sense!
And here’s the best part.
Remember what we said about the compounding effect of your salary? Relationships are also similar.
When you invest in building a network of mentors and sponsors, they can connect you to other influencers, growing your network for you!
So it doesn’t matter if you’re a new recruit or in middle management. It doesn’t matter if you just got a promotion and don’t expect another one for a few years.
It doesn’t even matter if you’re on a career path where the promotion timelines and criteria are fixed – you may be surprised by the exceptions good connections can make possible for you.
Start investing in building your network of mentors and sponsors. Get the support you need to deliver in your job and get the visibility you deserve. And see your career fast track in ways you didn’t know it could! Atta girl!
Coming up next
Tomorrow we’ll see how to start seeking out mentors.
- Winning mentors and sponsors is a continuous, lifelong process.
Mentorships and sponsorships are not check-the-box exercises. Building these relationships takes initiative. And as always, you are in the driver’s seat! The sooner you start, the faster you’ll progress in your career.
- Mentors and sponsors can have a compounding effect on your network.
When you invest in building a network of mentors and sponsors, they can connect you to other influencers, growing your network for you! The better connected you are, the better you position yourself for the big jobs. The company benefits from your internal and external connections!
- Do your daily Rekindle routine.
Actively seek out mentors and sponsors.
Today, reflect on your experiences so far seeking out mentors and sponsors. What have been some of your challenges in building these relationships? No judging, just observing. Awesome!
Good job completing the lesson. We’ll see you here same time tomorrow.
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