Ever wonder how some people’s careers came to be on the fast track (think Justin Bieber), when others who may be just as talented take twice as long to reach the same level of success, that’s if they reach success at all? Well your first instinct is right, they’re well connected, but it might not be through a relative or family friend. Having a sponsor and advocate for you in the workplace can do wonders for your career. In Mr. Bieber’s case, let’s just say one could do worse than having Usher a.k.a. Mr. Confessions himself as a sponsor.
Take a lesson from celebrities who have had a veteran (relatively speaking) give them their stamp of approval. Kendrick Lamar has Dr. Dre, Dr. Phil had Oprah, Drake had Lil’ Wayne, Adrien Broner has Floyd “Money” Mayweather even Snoop Dogg had Bishop “Don Juan” when it came to pimpin’. Rookies who have a personal cheerleader building up their reputation and fan base shorten their path to success. And having an advocate in the workplace is increasingly important for career success, studies show they are especially important for women who are less likely to have a sponsor in the workplace.
So how do you get a sponsor at work? It all starts with talent and strategy. Before someone will stick their neck out and endorse your personal brand you first have to prove that you’re worth bragging about. To get noticed, master your day-to-day responsibilities and then take on an extra project that will help the company grow. Rockstars are not exclusive to award shows and MTV spring break, being a rockstar in the office is very attractive, and is one way to put the spotlight on you and attract internal endorsers.
To increase your chances of getting approached by a potential sponsor, be strategic with the projects you take on. It doesn’t necessarily help to do more at work if the right people don’t notice. So take the time to identify people within a descent level of influence in your job and use your strengths to excel at projects they may have interest in or are familiar with.
If you need help identifying people that would be a good sponsor, ask a mentor either from work or in your field to help determine whom you should make sure knows whom you are. What’s the difference between a mentor and a sponsor you ask? The key difference is endorsement level. While a mentor may root for you, counsel you, and may promote you within the office or industry, a sponsor has a level of influence that can make or break your career – and they may not be someone who is giving you advice on a regular basis.
Once you’ve attracted a sponsor, take the time to get to know them and their fellow decision makers through networking events, holiday parties, common interest, etc. Having your proud sponsor introduce you to top leaders is one way to keep you top of mind when a new position opens up that you’d love to have (all of you “young moguls” be patient asking for the CEO spot). And most importantly continue to work with them on and excel at highly visible projects. As many artists know, it’s harder to keep your fame than it is to achieve it, remember what Jay-Z said “the same sword that they knight you with, they can good night you with”.
There you have it, now go find the Usher or Oprah like sponsor for your office. We’re waiting to hear about you. U DEFINE SUCCESS.