Traditional pathways to career progression have changed throughout the years. Mentors used to be the answer, but in today's world research shows sponsors help pave the way to success.
Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of "Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor," said men and women with sponsors are much more likely to get a pay raise and promotion than without a sponsor.
"If you have a senior person on your side creating opportunities, the odds are you feel very engaged and enthusiastic about your work and much more likely, if you're a woman, to hang on to your ambition and lean in."
A sponsor serves as your advocate, believes in your potential and encourages you to take risks. On the flip side, a sponsor expects a great deal from you. A sponsor doesn't just dole out advice but also offers the powerful backing inside the organization to get you where you want to go.
There are some notable executives in the sponsorship world. Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger sponsored Pat Fili-Krushel of NBC Universal and former American Express President Lou Gerstner sponsored Ken Chenault.
As expected, it's not easy to go to a company's chief executive and ask to be sponsored. Hewlett advises protégés to target the right leaders and win over their loyalty and trust, and then figure out what makes you special or what skills can be brought to the table that your sponsor might not have.
Hewlett is also an economist and founder of the Center for Talent Innovation.
NBC Universal is the parent company of CNBC.
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