How to take control of your career

In September 2016, the company I work at hosted a Women’s Leadership Conference entitled, “It’s Your Move.” The idea behind the theme was that every person is not only responsible for the direction of their own careers, but they are much more empowered than they might think. With some careful planning and the use of a multitude of resources, each of us can move strategically along the career path of our choosing.

Let me be real, I picked the theme out of a sense of defiance. After hearing story after story of women who were told they couldn’t get a promotion, get a raise, lead a company, break into a certain field and ultimately take control of her own career, I decided that it was time to defy these barriers and false narratives.

Being in control of your career takes boldness. It might mean venturing into an area that you might not be familiar with because there aren’t many role models yet. Being in control of your career takes confidence. It means knowing who you are, knowing your strengths and weaknesses (but focusing on your strengths) and knowing what you want. Inwardly, we need to take the stance of the defiant girl facing off against the Wall Street bull. Being in control of your career will require you to be strategic. It will require to you make the right connections, be seen by the right people and speak up at the right times. It will also mean that you have to make corrections and changes as needed.

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There are some things in life that are true mysteries.  Career advancement doesn’t have to be one of them. We still have a long way to go before there is more representation of women in key decision-making positions, but we’re seeing more women entering the C-Suite. It will still take many years to close the wage gap, but more women are learning how to negotiate for fair wages. We are making strides because, in addition to our expertise and training,  we are learning how to use the tools (sponsorship, networking, negotiation) that have always been available.

My career journey will be much different than yours but we all have the same tools at our disposal. What we do with them will make all the difference. When it comes to career advancement, fortune favors the bold, confident and strategic.

Sponsorship -An Essential Tool for Career Success 

Whether you’re building your entrepreneurial empire or scaling the corporate ladder, there are essential tools that you will need to ensure career success. At the minimum, you should know how to work your network, communicate effectively and exhibit emotional intelligence. Those skills will get you in the door, but if you truly want to differentiate yourself from the rest, you need to find a sponsor. 

What is sponsorship?

People are under the wrong impression that coaching, mentoring and sponsorship are interchangeable, but they differ in form and function. They are all important to your career development, but sponsorship is more powerful. All three have career advancement as the end goal, but where coaching and mentoring involve the planning, sponsorship is about the doing.

“A coach talks to you, a mentor talks with you, and a sponsor talks about you.”

A sponsor is a prominent person who uses their strong influence to increase your visibility. Think of a sponsor as your career champion who can open closed doors and put you in front of the right people.

Strategies to attract sponsors

An overarching theme of Partnhers is being strategic and intentional about your own career and success.

PartnHER Strategic Life Plan

  1. Think about what you want.
  2. Develop a plan of action.
  3. Go after what you want.
  4. Have fun while you’re doing it.

Strategic Sponsorship Plan

In the same way, you should be strategic about finding a sponsor. In most cases, it doesn’t just happen. You are responsible for increasing your own visibility and profile. Your plan can look something like this.

Strategic Sponsorship Plan

  1. Research SME’s or Thought Leaders in your field. Learn from them.
  2. Reach out to them.
  3. Put yourself in front of them.
  4. Let them see you in action.

If all goes well, your sponsor will have seen enough potential in you to endorse you to other power brokers. The rest is up to you. Just remember that this is a two-way relationship and it works best if both parties benefit. The sponsor should treat this relationship as they would any investment – with great time and care. Likewise, the protégé should be enhancing their sponsor’s reputation and not draining them.

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No matter where you are in your career journey, it’s never too late to find a sponsor. The most successful people have had more than one sponsor throughout their careers. They see this as a valuable tool that can open doors and increase their visibility to the people that matter.