You were told that hard work would get you everywhere. Your performance reviews are solid. You lean in just like Sheryl Sandberg told you to. So why is it that you are not in the place want to be, should be, in your career? Instead of feeling the thrill that comes with thriving, you stare longingly at the colleagues who have taken their seat at the table you were born to sit at. How do you get from here to there? The solution is simple: You stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and take control of your own progress. Here are three people who can help you do just that.
1 | A career coach.
I know you’re thinking, “I can’t afford one,” but consider the value. Personally, the money I’ve spent on a coach versus the financial and qualitative benefits I have received are twentyfold (at least). Friends and colleagues have also shared numerous examples of the promotions and raises received simply by gaining a coach’s perspective. You might ask yourself: why a coach? The purpose of a career coach is to be an external advisor who can provide a neutral (but very honest) perspective. He or she would be the one who has tough conversations with you and can teach you how to frame the situations you face. This coach can also help you prepare for interviews, negotiate salaries/merit increases and develop short and long term career goals. Best of all, they will be cheering for you along the way. You should be engaging with your coach regularly, but on a quarterly basis at minimum.
2 | A mentor.
Different than a career coach, a mentor is someone you have a more personal relationship with and they should have direct experience with your chosen field. Establish expectations on both sides up front, such as meeting frequency. Make sure to do your part! Have clear questions you want to ask, do your research on trends in the industry and don’t push your mentor for contacts or excess support.
3 | A sponsor.
Coaches and mentors are indispensable; however, as Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor, says, “They are not your ticket to the top.” Instead, she suggests we all need a sponsor because they, “Give advice and guidance, but they also believe in your value and your potential and are prepared to link reputations and go out on a limb on your behalf.”
Our world is structured on reputation. I think back to a recent conversation with a friend who tried to get a job at a Big Four consulting firm and could not even get an interview until she had the word Harvard on her resume. How many face-to-face interview hits have you received because you posted your resume online versus based on a connection you have? The same applies to getting the career you desire. Doing great work is only half of the battle. Finding a person who will go to bat for you is even more important.
Finding a sponsor is not easy. Almost anyone will have coffee with you and give you advice, but a sponsor will see what a great talent you are. They also recognize the value you bring to them. It took me 20 years to find my sponsor and she got me promoted in five months.
So remember: Coach + Mentors + Sponsor = Badass Career.
Have you worked with a coach, mentor or sponsor? Share your story with us!
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