The new #femlead Twitter chat looks promising. But there is only so much you can say in 140 characters.
Something came up last week that I want to address here.
I agree with Alison’s point here, except for the “but”.
In my view getting sponsored to do a leadership task/role/etc is one of the professional development things you might actively seek out.
Here are the steps:
1. Identify what opportunities you want
This is your career direction and it’s all about you. Only you care about this but it is important as a base for you to make decisions about what to say yes to and what to say no to.
2. Identify what you have to offer
This is important to whoever is going to appoint you to that role/position. What skills do you bring? What can you do for this committee/office/whatever?
2a. Identify intermediate steps
If you have skills gaps or need more experience to be able to take on that role, identify intermediate steps that will better equip you for that role in the future. This might be a course, mentorship, or a different role that gives you the experience you need.
3. Figure out how people get appointed to the role/position/committee you want
This is important. Is there an open call? Do people get nominated? Does it seem to be an informal process where people just get asked? Are there people have seem to have influence in whatever the process is?
You need to know this so you can figure out how you can insert yourself in this process. Ask around. Find out both the official process and the process behind the official process if you can. Your goal here is to learn how things really happen.
4. Prepare your case
This might be a formal application that you submit. Or, it might be a case you prepare so that someone else can nominate you. This is where you take the information in number 2 above and frame it to fit the process. You might present some of this informally to a potential sponsor. You might put it in writing for either an application or to give to your sponsor so they can nominate you. If you need references, you also want to make this case to your references so they can support your case well.
The important part
Under no circumstances should you wait around for someone to notice what a good fit you would be for a particular role/position/committee and sponsor you out of the goodness of their heart.
The people with the power and influence to do that are very busy. They aren’t spending a lot of time looking around for hidden gems. Prepare your case and go to them. Be polite and assertive. Ask for their help and advice. Make sure you tell them what you want and why you think you are well qualified.
Yes, sponsorship is the best way to secure challenging assignments and visibility, things that are key to getting promoted and advancing your career.
But you need to take that first step to visibility yourself.