The Sponsor: Rubina Malik
While mentors are great at giving feedback, they may not use their influence to help you get ahead in tangible ways. That’s where a sponsor comes in. “Most people don’t even know what a sponsor is,” says Rubina F. Malik, Ph.D., assistant professor at Morehouse College. “Sponsorship requires a different type of exchange [than what you see in a traditional mentoring relationship]. When someone sponsors you, that individual actually puts his or her reputation on the line and says, “This person is somebody in my circle, and I would really like you to consider their résumé.” While it might sound like semantics, according to the Harvard Business Review, women from the Kellogg School of Management 2015 Executive Management Program reported that 86 percent of the time, they were more likely to get promoted when they had a sponsor instead of a mentor. A key differential: Sponsorship is inherently more transactional—a quid pro quo of sorts, says Malik. Your sponsor helps you land a plum promotion, but also expects that, at some point, he or she will benefit from the interaction. “Women have a tendency not to ask for endorsements because we don’t know how to sell ourselves or don’t want to appear helpless,” says Malik. “But men ask for what they want. They’ll say, “Look, I want X,” and then their sponsor starts making things happen for them because they’ve asked for it.”
When seeking a sponsor, go beyond just thinking about your boss, says Malik. If your organization does volunteer work, sign up. Who knows? You could be building a Habitat for Humanity house next to your company’s president. And don’t be afraid to look outside for sponsorship. “All my sponsors aren’t academics,” says Malik. “They might hear about opportunities people in your circle don’t know. I have a sponsor who is always introducing me to folks or telling me where to go like, “Hey, take this workshop. I think it would help you.”” That kind of support is invaluable.