Sponsorship Checklist: Are You Ready to Ask A Potential Sponsor to Advocate for You?

The following checklist is designed to help protégés decide whether or not a relationship with a potential sponsor is developed enough to ask him or her to advocate for them. Not all of these criteria need be met. However, the more “checks” you have, the more likely it is that you are ready to have such a conversation with the potential sponsor.

There has been a significant amount of time and opportunity for getting to know each other.

The exact amount of time required will vary and will depend on how closely you worked with the sponsor, but it should typically be more than a few weeks, for example. The additional items below can help you decide if the length of time has been sufficient:

You have had a chance to work relatively closely with the potential sponsor.
During this work, you stood out as a key leader or contributor in delivering successful outcomes.
You have had continuous positive interaction in meetings, conferences, and other key contexts in your organization.
You and the potential sponsor remain in contact or would be interested in more opportunities to work together

You’ve received positive feedback from the potential sponsor.

The Potential Sponsor Has

Made repeated positive comments about your work
Requested you for his-or-her projects or work-teams
Given you more responsibility, seem to trust you to make decisions, own projects, and take initiative

You bring value.

In sponsorships, both parties can enhance each other’s reputations and careers. Consider if your relationship meets these criteria:

You and the potential sponsor can identify the specific value you bring.
You have the abilities and commitment to warrant the risk the sponsor takes on you and are prepared to increase this value as sponsorship increases.

You have good communication regarding goals.

This might involve the following:

You are aware of each other’s goals and have open communication about them.
You can ask for and get career advice from the potential sponsor towards these goals.
You can express your desire for advancement opportunities.

Would you sponsor you?

If the situation were reversed, would you (as a sponsor) know enough and be confident about you as a protégé?
Talk with your colleagues who have had sponsors for their perspectives on your readiness to pursue a sponsorship relationship.
Open communication is important since many leadership opportunities are confidential or “behind-the-scenes.” You may not even know that a position exists, but if a sponsor knows what you want and what you can do, they can advocate for you anyway. So don’t be shy about talking about your aspirations, what qualities are needed for a given role, and what areas for improvement you might need to address. Research shows that women who voice their future interests to those in powerful positions are more successful in achieving those goals.