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  • Writer's pictureReeshemah Davis

It's Time To Get A Sponsor

I often think about my long-time mentor, who advocated for me in spaces and places I didn’t know about. I often wonder what my career would look like without a mentor or, in some cases, a sponsor. There’s a book called Forget the Mentor, Find a Sponsor, where the author emphasizes the crucial role of sponsorship in career advancement.

In today’s corporate world, sponsorships are underrepresented among women. The corporate culture, often dominated by white males, doesn’t tend to sponsor or mentor those who don’t look like them. A staggering 71% of executives have protégés whose gender and race match theirs. This unconscious bias and the assumptions made can significantly impact career trajectories. (Source: Center For Talent Innovation Research Study & Aiir Consulting, Nov 2020)

Women represent over 50% of the available talent pool and occupy 52% of all management and professional-level jobs. Yet, fewer than 21% of US C-Suite executives are women. Women are over-mentored and under-sponsored, which contributes to this disparity. Black women are less likely than white women to say their managers support their advancement or give them stretch assignments. The pandemic has only intensified these challenges, and even when women hold senior titles, they are often not in mission-critical roles that come with real power. (Source: Center For Talent Innovation Research Study & Aiir Consulting, Nov 2020)

Mentors shine as you start to define your dream. They can see and put into words what you may not know about yourself or be able to articulate. They help you determine your strengths, what you do exceptionally well, and what sets you apart. Mentors offer advice and guidance, and unlike sponsorship, mentor-mentee relationships can be reciprocal, with roles sometimes reversing. You can have multiple mentors; these relationships don’t always need to be within your organization.

However, owning the process is essential to truly excel in your field. Identify key players and influential decision-makers who can be potential sponsors. These individuals may not be your boss but likely someone more senior, possibly from a different company or organization. Your mentor might even introduce you to a potential sponsor.

Use networking opportunities to actively seek a sponsor and clearly state the goals you want to achieve with their sponsorship.

You don’t just need one sponsor; having multiple sponsors can help stretch your network internally and externally. This is crucial for career development.

Here are some strategies to help you find and engage with sponsors:

  1. Perform: Excel in your current role to demonstrate your potential.

  2. Identify Good Sponsors: Look for individuals with a good track record of supporting others.

  3. Raise Your Hand: Volunteer for exposure opportunities to showcase your work.

  4. Make Your Value Visible: Ensure you are not the best-kept secret by sharing your accomplishments.

  5. Set Clear Career Goals: Know what you want to achieve and share these goals with your leaders.

  6. Prepare for Conversations: Do your homework in advance and identify the sponsor’s areas of expertise. Engage strategically, focusing on significant issues rather than minor tactical ones.

A good mentor will test your seriousness and commitment, and engaging effectively with a sponsor requires strategic thinking. By combining mentorship and sponsorship, you can navigate your career path more effectively and achieve your professional goals.

Share your mentor or sponsorship experience in the comments. I'd love to hear about it.




Reeshemah Davis, ACC, CPCC, is a certified executive and leadership coach who helps you create your path toward success by understanding your strengths, acknowledging pain points, and finding beneficial solutions for change. Reeshemah helps leaders with leadership presence, increase influence, and gain clarity of purpose for navigating a complex and diverse workforce. Coaching is created to shift your perspective, direct focus, inspire new actions and redefine your personal and professional goals to achieve the growth you need to succeed further.


If you are interested in learning more, click here.


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