Did you know that in 2015 there were more CEOs named John than female CEOs in total?
Fortunately, we’ve seen a slight improvement in the number of women in top leadership positions since then but there’s still a long way to go.
We look forward to the day when women will be equally represented in the C-Suite, but in the meantime, what can you do to increase your odds of advancement?
Find a sponsor.
Sponsorship is often confused with mentorship but there is a key difference between the two.
A mentor is someone who uses their knowledge and experience to support you through listening to your career vision, offering feedback and giving advice.
Sponsors, on the other hand, are senior-level executives who use their position and power to advance your career by advocating for you to receive high stakes assignments and promotions.
While a mentor’s role may be passive, a sponsor is actively invested in facilitating your advancement and championing your success.
If you don’t have a sponsor, it’s time to start looking! Here are five tips to get you started:
Clarify your career goals
A sponsor isn’t going to know what opportunities are right for you if you don’t even know what you want for yourself. Help others help you by defining the role you are aiming for and clearly articulating how your strengths and successes make you a good fit.
Focus on strategy over friendship
It’s natural to gravitate toward people who are most like you (which for women often means other women) but the best sponsors are those who have the power to open doors for you and are willing to use it.
According to HBR, “when women are mentored by men, they make more money, get more promotions and have better career outcomes – not because men are better mentors but because they have more power.”
Find opportunities for exposure
Whether it’s giving a presentation or spearheading a new initiative in their department, find or create opportunities for potential sponsors to see you in action and begin building a relationship with them. Leverage your existing network to make this happen by asking a manager or other middle-man to connect you. Then ask how you can help them.
Say yes to opportunities before you’re ready
If a sponsor presents an opportunity that is aligned with your goals but it’s outside of your current skill set or comfort zone, say yes! Taking the initiative to learn and deliver superior results on these assignments will make a great impression and is likely to be remembered when it’s time for promotions.
Don’t tie your success to one sponsor
Give yourself more chances to succeed by seeking out multiple sponsors both within and outside of your organization. The more people who know how good you are, the better!
By adding sponsorship to your strategic toolbox you can transform the trajectory of your career and land that next position more quickly.
We hope these tips will help you do just that because we need more leaders like you at the top.