On the importance of sponsors, PayPal’s chief business affairs and legal officer, Louise Pentland, puts it this way:
“... they [sponsors] are people who will advocate for you in the workplace when you need to be more visible. The totality of your legacy relates to your perceived success in a corporation, so you should actively make an effort to build relationships and prove your value-add to your company. It is important to be thoughtful about networking, because hiring decisions are made based on awareness of your contributions to the team and, like it or not, hearsay... ”
So, after you’ve followed our tips on how to find a sponsor, here are some ways to best leverage your relationship with them.
1. Clarify your goals.
A sponsor won’t know which opportunities to help you with if you don’t make your goals clear to them.
- They can help you build your career path, but first you need to let them know what destinations you’re aiming for.
- For example, if you’re hoping to transition to a product management role and eventually become a senior leader in that department, let your sponsor know, so they can target their efforts more effectively.
2. Be mindful of pacing.
A lasting and mutually-beneficial relationship of any kind requires thoughtfulness, patience, and emotional intelligence.
- You should avoid asking too much of sponsors too quickly.
- It’s important to nurture your relationship and gradually make more asks at the right times - while building their trust in your abilities, potential, and loyalty.
3. Always put your best foot forward.
They’re gatekeepers for promotions, jobs, and opportunities, so make it easy for them to have full confidence in your competence, reliability, and loyalty.
- Remember that everything they observe or hear about you affects their evaluation of your fit for future opportunities.
- Make the strongest case for yourself by always being cognizant of how you want them to perceive you.
- Make sure to stay in touch regularly and continue strengthening your rapport with them.
- Keep them in the loop about any accomplishments (e.g., recognitions, project successes) that will increase their confidence that they’re championing the right person.
4. Make it a two-way street.
Ask them what you can do for them.
- Offer helpful introductions.
- Leverage your own sphere of influence to help your sponsors.
- If they write a blog or something, retweet it. Everyone likes their ego boosted.
- Volunteer your expertise to help them or their team solve an issue.
“Find ways to support them [sponsors] and ask them about their challenges -- you'll be surprised how much value you can add back!” - Erica Dhawan, Global Leadership Expert
5. Have in-person meetings.
Having face-to-face interactions with sponsors are much better than having them over email or phone.
- In case you run into them at any given moment, be prepared with any asks or updates you want to share.
- Sponsors are often very busy people who may not always respond quickly to your emails. So, if you don't hear back after a little while, make sure to follow-up.
- And, if it seems too difficult to meet in person, try to schedule a quick video call, to get some face time with them.
- It’s important to be respectful of their travels and busy schedules.
6. Guard their trust.
Loose lips sink ships - and promising sponsorship relationships. Remember to always treat these valuable relationships with respect, maturity, and “The Golden Rule.”
- Whatever you discuss should stay between you two.
- Allow them to feel comfortable being honest and vulnerable with you.