Are you having trouble making connections to find and land your dream job? Have you ever thought about having your own personal sponsor? We tend to limit sponsors to vendors or organizations that sponsor an organization or provide resources and materials for an association event. But a personal sponsor can be used in many areas of your professional life, such as to help you have a more successful job search. Let’s discuss a little more about what a professional sponsor is and how you can leverage one for your career goals.
What is a professional sponsor? A sponsor is a successful or well-connected professional who is usually well-known, respected, and/or has a large network who can make key connections for you that you might not be able to make on your own. While we do commend and support any professional who has the courage to make new connections on their own, many times you will have more success meeting a new person through a mutual connection. This mutual connection could be your sponsor. A professional sponsor is similar to a mentor or career coach but different in a few ways. While mentors typically provide longer-term support and advice, a sponsor is someone you leverage for specific one-time situations. You could also choose to leverage different sponsors for different professional reasons. Here are three ways you can leverage a sponsor to help you find your dream job:
- Job search. If you see that one of your connections knows the hiring manager for the job you want, reach out to them and ask if they would sponsor you. This means that they would contact the hiring manager and let them know they have a friend (you) who would be a good fit for the position. Your sponsor can also send you a referral application link, which lets the employer know you are being referred versus applying online using the public link for the position opening. This can give you higher preference in the recruiting process.
You can also ask your sponsor if they would be willing to provide advice to you as you progress through the hiring process, such as how to adjust your resume for the position based on buzzwords and strengths the company is looking for, any recommendations for interview preparation, and suggestions for following up after your interview.
- Networking events. A sponsor for a networking event will make introductions and talk positively about you. It’s like having an experienced wingman or woman with you to help you feel more confident and provide easier access to people you wouldn’t have otherwise. A sponsor could also be a friend or family member who attends an event with you for moral support.
Asking someone to be your sponsor doesn’t have to be a formal request. You can simply reach out to ask if they could assist you with introductions at the event. However, be specific with what you would like to ask of them and ensure they are comfortable with that role. Practice in advance what they might say about you in a group conversation, if possible.
Before attending a networking event, determine what opportunities are available to you and how a sponsor could help with those opportunities. For example, is there someone in particular you want to meet such as someone who works at the organization you want to work for or someone you would like to conduct an informational interview with? Now consider which experienced professionals in your network could attend the event with you or who are already attending the event. For example, you can ask a former co-worker to attend an event with you, help you prepare in advance, and talk you up during conversations.
- To get a promotion. Is your dream job a different position within your organization, such as a promotion? A sponsor for a promotion would be someone well-regarded and above you within your organization. Identify someone within your organization that knows your strengths and skill set well enough to speak on your behalf during the process. They could do one or more of the following:
- Set up a meeting to speak with your supervisor to discuss your qualifications.
- Write a recommendation letter for why they feel you should be promoted.
- Develop a list of specific qualifications to share with your manager regarding your leadership strengths and projects you’ve worked on which demonstrate you are ready for the next level.
Of course, remember to make yourself available to your connections as a sponsor when possible as well. If all professionals sponsor each other from time to time, this will help create unique opportunities and career advancement for everyone.