Hard work and perseverance will always get you to the top, right? Not entirely.

Just because you’re competent in your job and qualified to lead doesn’t mean you’ll be awarded such opportunities. The world isn’t that perfect, but there is hope. Research has shown that sponsorship can be key to advancement in the workplace.

What is Sponsorship?

Sponsorship is a relationship between a senior employee and an employee who shows potential for working their way up the ladder. In short, your sponsor is an ally in your company who advocates for you at the decision-making table. The more authority your sponsor has, the more quickly you will advance.

When management is delegating important assignments, considering candidates for promotion or divvying pay raises, you want your name to be a part of the conversation. Sponsorship could be the ticket to accelerating your career.

Sponsorship is vital for all employees, but there is an increasing amount of buzz around the importance of sponsorship for women in the workplace. Sponsorship is showing promise for cultivating executive diversity, which is imperative in business.

Historically, men and women have different attitudes about networking, and women tend to underestimate the need for sponsors. Women also face additional barriers when seeking sponsorship, thus hindering the trajectory of their careers.

“Men have fewer mentors than women, but men have more sponsors,” said Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and co-founder of Ellevest, at the Catalyst Conference in San Francisco. “Every important decision about your career is made when you are not in the room. Sponsors are the ones fighting for you.”

Successful sponsorship is a win-win-win situation for sponsors, protégés and organizations alike. The key is knowing benefits of sponsorship, and then cultivating those relationships effectively.

The Sponsorship Series

As you may have guessed from this article’s title, this is the first blog in a series about sponsorship. Over the next several months, I’ll provide you with relevant information about every aspect of sponsorship.

What’s the difference between a sponsor and a mentor? Why do you need a sponsor? How do you attract an executive sponsor? What are the benefits of sponsoring a protégé? What obstacles do women face in cultivating a sponsor?

These are just a few questions I’ll answer throughout this series. There is no “silver bullet” for attracting high-level sponsors, so you should invest time and energy into learning about the sponsorship process.

According to the Harvard Business Review, a sponsor confers a statistical career benefit of 22%-30%, depending on what’s being requested and the gender of the person asking. Solid research is being done on the effects and importance of sponsorship, and you should be in the know.

Sponsorship can open so many doors, benefitting you and those around you in ways you never thought possible.
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