Build your career path with a sponsor

Growing your personal brand is as easy as PIE but by adding a good measure of sponsor your results will ensure success says Rebecca Rogers

Building your personal brand has fast become a critical part of professional development Tor any and everyone. Developing and nurturing your brand takes more than just you. If the recipe for advancing in your career brand lacks essential ingredients, it’s likely you won’t get and outstanding dish. The truth is, you can check all the boxes and do all the right things to move forward on your career path, but without the right investment of social capital, you will never reach your full career potential. 
One popular model of an individual’s career brand is the PIE model. PIE stands for: Performance, Image and Exposure. These are also known as the unwritten rules of success in the corporate environment. 
The not so humble pie
Let’s look at these three components more closely:
Performance: Step one is to do the job well. Before jumping to image and exposure, ensure you have the metrics to back up your brand. Without credibility, tackling the next evolution in your career will be tricky. Build a reputation of excellent performance that demonstrates the value you bring to future roles.
Image: Image is partially based on your performance, but it’s also based on how others perceive your approach to your work. How are you perceived in the organisation –among your colleagues and especially among those that can advance your career? Are you trustworthy? Do you align with the company values? Do you know when to be your own champion and share your successes? Do you know when to step out of the spotlight and advocate for others?
Exposure: Exposure is about visibility. If you’re a rockstar performer with a well perceived image but no one sees you, does anyone even know you’re there? Seeking out opportunities to build a diverse network and asking for work on strategic projects can create the right kind of positive exposure to advance your career.
You’ll notice a common theme amongst these steps – they rest on your shoulders. So, how do you know if your performance and image are being received well, or whether you’re attracting a beneficial kind of exposure? The thought of tackling a whole PIE on your own can be daunting, so consider sharing with a sponsor!
Adding ‘S’ to PIE is about advancing your career by finding a sponsor ready and willing to invest in you


Level up: find (or be) a powerful sponsor
Bret Lefever, regional sales manager from Cardinal Health, shared with me how they strategically added ‘s’ to the PIE model as an organisation. PIES includes the important step of finding a sponsor – someone to help you develop your brand, all while advocating for you across their network and proactively seeking out opportunities.
In other words, PIE can help jumpstart you to the next level of your career, but without the right sponsor advocating on your behalf, you risk being misrepresented or not noticed. 
Carla Harris’ TedTalk describes her first experience understanding the importance of a sponsor during a talent planning meeting. In this meeting, candidates were put into potential career paths, not necessarily by their hard work and image, but by sponsor recommendations. At the time, Carla didn’t have one. “Who is going to speak for me?” she inquired.
Unfortunately, sponsor representation isn’t equitable across all experiences and identities. It’s no secret that most organisations struggle with representation of diverse talent, equity across business practices, and building an inclusive culture. Challenges with addressing DEI extends to ensuring that all talent can find sponsors. A specific effort needs to be made for diverse talent who have historically not had access to executive-level sponsors. 
Individuals in positions to be powerful sponsors tend to be white men, so employees belonging to underrepresented identities of gender, race, ethnicity, and ability are less likely to find themselves in a sponsor/sponsee relationship. According to McKinsey’s Monne Williams, “…fewer than a third of Black workers report having sponsors, and fewer than 25 percent report receiving ‘quite a bit’ or ‘a lot’ of support to make it to the next level.”
If you are a leader in an organisation, or in a position to be a powerful sponsor, you can help push corporate DEI momentum, and your company’s bottom line, in an even more meaningful direction by sponsoring a diverse group of employees throughout your tenure. 
Adding ‘S’ to PIE is about advancing your career by finding a sponsor ready and willing to invest in you. After all, no one achieves success alone. Sponsors are truly the overlooked requirement for building your professional brand.
Ready to share the pie?
If you are personally working on your individual career development, don’t limit yourself to what’s in your power. Advocate for a sponsor to guide you through that career path. It might be your individual career brand but driving down that career journey by yourself will be lonely and unsuccessful. 
If you are a sponsor, look at the employees you are crossing paths with and taking under your wing. Where could your network, advice, and social capital bring a meaningful change for the inclusivity of your organisation?
Rebecca Rogers is a client partner at MentorcliQ, 

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