This is the third in a four-part series of articles about how a sponsor can help you get what you want from your career or practice.
How do you identify the right person (or people) to sponsor you?
Do This First. Before you can identify a sponsor and begin to develop that relationship, there are 3 things you must do to prepare.
- Get Clear on the Dream. What does your ideal professional future look like? What job, practice area, position or opportunity would get you jumping out of bed in the morning at the crack of dawn? What situation would be so transformative for you that you would be willing to make sacrifices without complaint to achieve what you desire? There’s simply no point in getting a sponsor until you know precisely what it is you want to achieve. For one thing, that’s the whole point – sponsors help you get where you want to go. The other challenge is that if you’re not clear on your goals, you could choose the wrong sponsor for the job.
- Identify Your Strengths. What are you really good at? What can you make happen? What sets you apart from others? This is not the time for a balanced view that includes your weaknesses. You can certainly work on those later, but now is the time to clearly identify the strengths you bring to the table, in other words, the skills, experience, clout and determination you can use to get where you’re going and, even more important, to help your sponsor get what he or she wants. Create a written list for yourself, and brag away.
- Analyze the Landscape. Knowing the lay of the land ahead of you is critical. For example, if you’re interested in making partner or chairing an important committee, what will you have to deliver to be tapped for the position? The calculus is similar even if you want to leave your current situation – if you want to transition to public interest work or start your own law firm, you need to know what the path ahead looks like. As part of your research, consider the obstacles ahead. What or who are they? What do you need to know to get around them and who can help you do it?
Start Identifying Prospects. Now that you know what you want, what you have to offer, and what the path ahead looks like, start making your list.
- Use a wide-angle lens. Depending on your career goals and the size of your firm or company, you may want to consider sponsors both inside and outside your workplace. Also, there’s no need to limit yourself to just one sponsor.
- Identify potential sponsors with “juice.” Remember, choosing a role model or someone you identify with or admire is not the same thing as choosing a sponsor. A true sponsor, as opposed to a mentor, supporter or friend, is someone who has the power to get you where you want to go.
- Don’t limit yourself to people in your practice group or department. Often, those outside your immediate circle of coworkers will have access to critical information, influencers, and perspective you need.
- Pay special attention to what others might want. While you can’t always divine the goals of potential sponsors, it is helpful to have an idea of how you might be able to help them. Remember that a primary reason for a sponsor to help you is that you will offer high value in return.
Part 4 of the Get Yourself a Sponsor series will present strategies on approaching potential sponsors and beginning to develop a mutually beneficial relationship.
Part 1 of the Get Yourself a Sponsor series explains the benefits for lawyers of having a sponsor and described why a sponsor would want to take on that role.
Part 2 of the Get Yourself a Sponsor series offers more detail about what a sponsor can do for you and, perhaps more important, what your sponsor will expect you to deliver in return.