To succeed at work, you need someone to advocate for you. Someone with the real power to shape your career by aligning your aspirations with the opportunities you need and making them possible for you.

Even a great product in the market can’t sell by itself. It needs good marketing to get in front of the right customers. This applies to your work too.

You need:

Someone to vouch for you.

Someone who can help you get the right opportunities by increasing the visibility of your work.

Someone who will support and defend you because they believe in you.

That someone is a sponsor. Good sponsors can take you to the next level in your career by identifying where your work might be valuable and signing you up for it.

You’re getting sponsored when:

  • Someone cites an interesting thing they learned from you to a large group in your organization.
  • Your name comes up while deciding the lead on a new project.
  • You’re being recommended to share your knowledge in a tech talk or a conference.
  • Your manager receives an email from another team or function appreciating your skills or work you did for them.
  • The way you resolved a high impact customer bug gets shared with the leadership team of your organization.
  • Someone defends you for making a mistake or failing to meet certain expectations.

Many people mistake sponsors with mentors—they’re not the same. Mentors give you feedback and advice, share their experience and help you build new skills. Sponsors raise you up by making your experience and skills visible to others and getting you in front of the right opportunities.

A mentor can only show you the right door, it’s the sponsor that can open it for you.

You may find a mentor through a formal mentoring program at your organization or you may approach someone you respect to share their guidance and advice.

Sponsors don’t work this way. You can’t ask someone to love your work and speak about it positively. Doing great work also doesn’t guarantee sponsorship. You need to be strategic about it. People don’t sponsor others so easily because sponsoring others puts their own reputation at stake.

Finding the right sponsor can help accelerate your career. Here are certain things you can do to make others more comfortable in sponsoring you:

Approach relationships strategically

Sponsors are people in your organization whose opinion is well regarded or they’re people in certain positions who have the power to influence decision making in your organization.

People don’t sponsor people they don’t know. No one will put their reputation on the line unless they’re sure. Don’t expect others to sponsor your work unless they also know you personally. When others know who you’re as a person, they feel more comfortable in sponsoring you.

You need to consciously and strategically build relationships with these people. To do this:

  1. Connect with people. Don’t let all your interactions be about work, show some interest in their life.
  2. Pay attention to their work and ask relevant questions. Good questions not only make the conversation interesting, they make it more likely for the other person to remember you.
  3. Seek their opinion on different matters and keep them in the loop on how their advice panned out.
  4. Show interest in collaborating on a project which is interesting and valuable to them.
  5. Most importantly, don’t try to fake anything. Authenticity goes a long way in building real connections.


Building relationships is not about transactions—it’s about connections. When we come from an authentic, genuine place in ourselves, our efforts to connect with people work to their fullest. Our relationships develop more easily and last longer.

— Michelle Tillis Lederman

Get sponsored by building genuine relationships. By being intentional in how you communicate and collaborate with others, you can take the responsibility for your growth in your own hands and not leave things to chance.

Shift from complain to problem solving mode

People who complain get the attention, but of the wrong kind. Their victim mentality pushes others away from them instead of bringing them closer.

No one wants to work with a person who constantly complains, pushes blames and refuses to take responsibility.

The problem solver on the other hand is popular and everyone wants to work with them. Their ability to navigate challenges, overcome obstacles and find solutions that others didn’t think existed makes them in demand.

To increase your likelihood of getting sponsored, approach problems with high agency. When you push through in the face of adversity and find a way to get what you want without waiting for the conditions to be perfect or otherwise blaming the circumstances, others come to rely on you for problems with unknowns and uncertainties.

To build high agency, do this:

  1. Identify your zone of excellence: Your zone of excellence is where your interests, skills and motivations align. When you start operating in your zone of excellence, you start playing games that you are uniquely positioned to win.
  2. Work on your self-talk: Watch your language and whenever you sense going down a negative path with words like “If only” “I can’t” “I have to,” reframe them with a more positive tone which directs the control back in your own hands with words like “I can” “I will” “I choose.”
  3. Get over your personal limitations: Purposefully step outside your comfort zone even in small ways for an extended period of time. By embracing discomfort, you will learn to push beyond your self-perceived limitations.
  4. Operate within your circle of influence: By operating within your circle of influence, you will stop judging and criticizing others and look internally to your own decisions and actions. You will stop focusing on other people’s weaknesses and start focusing on your own strengths.


The universe doesn’t give you what you ask for with your thoughts – it gives you what you demand with your actions.

— Steve Maraboli

Becoming a problem solver will increase your credibility at work making it more likely that you’ll get the sponsorship you need.

Look for opportunities to demonstrate your value

Most people do the work assigned to them and don’t actively put any effort into seeking the right opportunities. They assume it’s their manager’s job to give them what they need.

Waiting for work to be assigned limits their impact since they rely on others to decide what they can do and what opportunities aren’t meant for them.

Not being proactive has another disadvantage—people outside your team don’t have a clue on what you do which makes it impossible for them to sponsor you.

Good sponsors aren’t limited to your team. You have to expand your circle of influence—look beyond the boundary of your team and take the initial steps to demonstrate your value. Only by making your work visible to others, you can hope to find someone who recognizes your potential and decides to sponsor you.

To expand your circle of influence, do this:

  1. Connect with people from other teams and functions. Show curiosity to understand their work—you will discover many opportunities where you can contribute.
  2. Identify initiatives outside your direct scope of work. Can you participate in hiring, onboarding and other such events in your organization?
  3. Spend time solving problems that everyone recognizes, but no one pays attention to.
  4. Speak to your stakeholders. What are their biggest pain points?
  5. What are the key initiatives taken at the org level? How can you be part of some of them?


Focus your efforts on adding value rather than on promoting your achievements.

— Frank Sonnenberg

You’re most likely to get sponsored when you focus on adding value by actively contributing to areas where your knowledge and skills can be put to use.

Proactively seek a sponsor

Sponsorship doesn’t happen by chance. You need to actively put effort into seeking the right sponsor. You can never guarantee who’s going to sponsor you—that’s outside your control. What’s within your control is to consciously make an effort to find such people and showcase your value.

This requires that you not only find such people, but also find ways to get in front of them. To do this:

  • Don’t be busy doing work all day long. If you’re running from one task, one project and one problem to the next, you’ll never have the mental space to notice such people.
  • When you’re part of meetings, discussions or other gatherings where such people are present, don’t shy away from introducing yourself. Approach them, quickly speak about your work and immediately shift the focus to them. Showing interest in their life is a great strategy to get their attention.
  • Don’t restrict yourself to a team or an organization. Look within your network. You never know who can help you get your next job or recommend you for a new role. If your friends or colleagues know such people, ask them to make introductions.

Don’t limit yourself to one sponsor. Just like multiple mentors are useful to get guidance and advice, multiple sponsors are necessary to utilize your potential by getting in front of the right opportunities.

Each sponsor can open a new door for you. Consciously allocate time to find them—you may never get sponsored unless you actively seek one.


  1. We all seek mentors—people who can guide and coach us—while not paying attention to sponsors—people who can help us get the right opportunities by making our work visible.
  2. You need to be actively involved in the mentorship process, but sponsorship can happen behind the scenes.
  3. Good sponsors can accelerate your career by realizing your potential and signing you up for work where you can utilize your knowledge and skills.
  4. Take the time to build authentic relationships. No one will sponsor you unless they also know who you’re as a person.
  5. People with high agency—those who turn obstacles into opportunities—are in high demand. Your chances of getting sponsored shoot up when you spend time solving problems instead of complaining or pushing blame.
  6. Connect with people from other teams and functions, find ways to help others and contribute to initiatives outside your direct scope of work. Get sponsored by adding value.
  7. Don’t restrict yourself to a team. A good sponsor can be present anywhere. Lift your head up and take time to be part of their network. You won’t get sponsored unless you seek them actively.

This story was previously published here. Follow me on LinkedIn or here for more stories.



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