May 24, 2021
In the movie Willy Wonka, the entire world is trying to find Wonka’s golden tickets to access a limited experience in the chocolate factory. As the movie progresses, we see that the ticket did not always lead to a fabulous result. For example, Augustus falls into the chocolate river and may have the same fate as the candies. The Oompa Loompas must roll Violet off quickly to squeeze the blueberry juice out of her body to save her life.
So what happened that the golden ticket did not work out for these children?
Each of them came to the relationship with Wonka selfishly, expecting something for nothing. Only Charlie - who appreciates that he disappointed Wonka and tries to remedy it - wins the sponsorship prize.
The same is true of workplace sponsorship. To earn and maintain sponsorship, you must come to it with an open heart, work hard, and focus on pleasing your sponsor.
Last week, I explained what sponsorship is, the advantages of having a sponsor, and how it can impact your career trajectory.
Sponsors recommend you for opportunities and speak for you when you are not in the room. They are willing to use political capital for your benefit.
Given the benefits, everyone, like the entire world in Willy Wonka, wants to know how to get the golden ticket to one of these relationships.
However, like the children in Willy Wonka, not everyone appreciates and is willing to do what is necessary to create and retain these relationships.
Sponsorship is an earned relationship. Sponsors look for the following behaviors when considering a potential protégé. These behaviors are not natural to embody, and that is what makes sponsorship so challenging to obtain.
Not everyone has earned a chance to be sponsored. If you haven’t:
The reasons can vary from lack of interactions with potential sponsors and lack of knowledge of what you have accomplished to the hardest one of all: you have not earned sponsorship because of your commitment to your work. You can address the feedback in various ways. To do so, you need to develop a plan. Working with a mentor on this may be helpful.
If the feedback you receive indicates that you are acting like someone who has earned a potential sponsorship, doing the following can increase the odds that someone will take you on as a protégé.
If the feedback indicates that you have not earned a sponsorship, you need to take a hard look at your performance and develop a plan. It would help if you also thought about whether your organization will be open to a rebirth. If it is not, you may need to think about whether another firm is the right place to go - either way, you need to assess the feedback honestly.
If possible, you want to cultivate several sponsors because a sponsor can leave organizations, and having more than one can lessen the impact of a sponsor going. Additionally, having external sponsors can open doors outside of your organization.
Sponsorship can make a tremendous difference in a person’s career, and it is not free. You need to earn sponsorship before you receive it and afterward. Remember, though, “earning it” does not guarantee success; the right people still need to know what you have accomplished and have a relationship with you. So on top of working hard, you need to develop a brand and robust network.
If you want to ride the glass elevator to success, sponsorship could be just the ticket if you are willing to devote the time and energy. And as Wonka said, “Don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted… “He lived happily ever after.”
Are you ready to do what is necessary to earn a sponsor and the benefits that come with her?
Download Sheila's 10 Tips for In-House Counsel Struggling to Advance where she shares her time-tested tips for in-house counsel to release fear, jump-start your career, and propel towards promotion.