February 9, 2011 — Last month, my colleagues Jan Combopiano, Vice President & Chief Knowledge Officer, and Michael J. Chamberlain, Senior Director, Brand Management & Events, hosted a webinar on our latest research on the importance of sponsorship. The event was a tremendous success, with more than 1,500 people from around the world logging in and participating in the conversation. In fact, Jan and Michael received more than 150 questions from participants—far too many to address within the one-hour session!
With this in mind, I’ve invited them to answer one of the most frequently asked questions related to this research: How can I secure sponsorship if I do not have direct access to influential people in my organization? Jan and Michael, take it away! —Ilene H. Lang
An influential sponsor can make all the difference in your career, but how do you secure one? Even if you do not have direct access to influential people in your organization, you can still land a sponsor who will advocate for you from behind closed doors.
First, be good at what you do. In fact, be awesome! Sponsorship is not about entitlement—you need to earn it. You need to be a top performer to inspire others to take you under their wings.
Once you are on top of your game, you need to get noticed. You might not work on the same floor—or even in the same time zone—as your company’s most influential leaders. But that’s OK. Impress the people around you—every colleague you have exposure too might have the connections you need. You might not have the top boss’ ear, but others might, and they can speak highly about you to the people that matter.
For added visibility, try to volunteer inside your organization. Or organize networking events outside the office. Attend conferences where you think influential coworkers might be and speak with them there. And, have an elevator speech prepared—make sure colleagues get to know who you are and what you want to do. Do you know anyone who works on the company newsletter? If so, volunteer to write an article, or try to get featured.
There is no silver bullet to finding a powerful sponsor—everyone’s path is different. The important thing is to do a great job, take risks, and be creative. Leaders are always on the lookout for the next crop of talent. Get their attention. Help them notice you.
Jan Combopiano, Vice President & Chief Knowledge Officer, Catalyst, leads knowledge management efforts at Catalyst, leveraging resources and expertise to serve stakeholders, preserve the organization's history, and maintain the knowledge infrastructure. As head of the Information Center, Ms. Combopiano oversees library functions, including research requests from Catalyst staff, member organizations, the media, and outside researchers. In her operations role for the Research Department, she shepherds Catalyst work from concept to historical preservation, including the content for the annual Catalyst Awards Conference.
Michael Chamberlain, Senior Director, Brand Management & Events, is responsible for the care and keeping of the Catalyst brand, with major responsibilities including assessing external perceptions of the brand by target audiences and creating consistent positioning across, and external to, Catalyst. Mr. Chamberlain also plans and oversees all events related to Catalyst Research launches, CEO Summits, member and non-member convening opportunities, and the annual Catalyst Awards Conference and Dinner.