Ever heard the term, “your network is your net worth?” Let me just say, there’s a lot of truth to that. Even though I stress all the time that you need to be in the driver’s seat of your career, that doesn’t mean you have to figure it all out on your own. Sometimes you need someone riding shotgun with you, guiding you through your career journey and helping you achieve career success.
That “someone” can easily be multiple people (i.e. your Personal Board of Directors) and may fluctuate and change throughout your career, based on the guidance you need. When you have people in your career corner, they can not only guide and support you, but also:
- Open doors for you and help you expand your network
- Challenge you and give you honest feedback
- Advocate for you and look out for your best interest
- Coach and develop you to sharpen your strengths and cultivate new skills
Navigating your career can be isolating, anxiety-inducing, and stressful. The good news is that you don’t need to go at it alone. Find out below the four types of people you want to make sure are in your career corner:
A mentor is a trusted advisor who is going to provide you honest guidance, advice, and feedback – a crucial person to have in your career corner. When you are considering choosing a mentor, look to someone you admire and whose career path is inspiring to you. This person can either work at the same company as you or not, but either way, they should be invested in your success. Mentors are great because they can provide objective advice and direction on navigating your career, work challenges, and professional relationships.
You may even consider having multiple mentors as it can be beneficial to gain different perspectives and have them challenge your thinking. I personally have found success with having more than one mentor, as each of my mentors help fulfill different needs for me. For example, I have a previous manager who I consider my mentor to help me in my corporate career and then I also have a past colleague who I go to with business questions as I’m build L&I.
A Career Coach
You may be wondering what the difference is between a mentor and a career coach. A mentor is usually someone in your network with a connection to you who offers advice. A career coach puts you in the driver’s seat and instead of telling you what to do, asks you what you want to do.
A career coach is your cheerleader and challenger, all wrapped into one. Through deep listening and powerful questioning, a career coach can help you gain clarity and confidence, hold you accountable, and prepare you for big career moments. They are also there to uncover your strengths, talents, and skills that will help set you apart in a job search, promotion cycle, or other career goal you have. They will push you past your fears and to your potential.
There are a growing number of career coaches to choose from based on your needs. Whether you’re looking to change careers, prepare for an interview, learn the best way to negotiate, or work on your resume, you can find a wide variety of career coaches through a simple Google search or through a trusted person in your network. If you’re interested to know if we’re a fit and are considering working with me, check out my services page here.
A sponsor is an advocate for you, who elevates your visibility at work, helps get you new opportunities, ensures you get credit for your work, and defends you in your absence. While sponsors can come in the form of a manager, sponsors typically are leaders at your company. (But, turning a peer into a sponsor can certainly happen too!) Sponsors are the type of career relationships that are earned through intentional interactions.
You can gain visibility with a senior leader first by being a high performer and getting recognized for the work you do. Aim to get your contributions noticed by expressing the value you bring through intentional self-promotion. Raise your hand and volunteer for stretch opportunities. Use the power of your voice and share your opinions and ask questions. Let your personality shine!
Once you’ve been able to develop some repertoire and a personal connection, request to meet and come to the table with thoughtful talking points or questions you’ve prepared ahead of time. Focus on the impact you bring and can bring to the business to ensure you’re maximizing the time you have with them. Continuing to build and nurture the relationship will help keep you top of mind so that the sponsor thinks of you even when you’re not in the room.
A *Supportive* Manager
I say *Supportive* because not all managers are created equal. A supportive manager can play the role of mentor, sponsor, and coach. They are in your career corner to offer support with your overall professional development. According to Forbes, working for a boss that supports you is vital to professional and company success. Employees who work for a supportive manager are more likely to be happier, less stressed and have higher work output.
How can you develop a strong, positive professional relationship with your manager?
- Take initiative and be proactive, aiming to make your manager’s life easier.
- If you don’t have 1:1 meetings with him/her, request one ongoing so you can discuss your development goals and ask for help when you need it. Make sure to voice your career aspirations so they can guide you to the next step in your career.
- Build trust and ask for feedback so you know what skills to improve/strengthen.
- Make it personal. Express genuine interest in their life outside of the context of work.
Kelly Nash is a Chicago-based writer, career coach, speaker and founder of Lipstick & Ink®. She also works full-time in technology as a Role Strategy and Employee Engagement Manager at Salesforce and has over 12 years of digital marketing experience. Kelly has been featured in Thrive Global, Chicago Tribune, International Association of Women, General Assembly, Salesforce, and SheFactor. She’s fueled by black coffee, sunshine, a good ink pen, and a bold lip.