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A Sponsor In My Life: How Sponsorship Shaped My Career

Research has proven time and time again that the main reason why people leave jobs is either due to their manager or lack of career development opportunities. Put these two complaints together and you get the picture. Managers who do not support the career development of their whole team equally, are a definite catalyst to losing your best talent.

As a woman starting out in the Law industry, it was made very clear to me the hurdles I would have to jump through; the mountains I would have to move in order to get the same opportunities as my male colleagues.  These unnecessary struggles that I, and many other women, had the power to knock me out of the race — I could’ve relented to the systematic inequality and accepted that I would never progress because I wasn’t part of the ‘boys club’.

However, I was lucky enough to gain invaluable relationships with experienced leaders, who absolutely supported and developed my career; and I have personally seen how that support helped me to see strengths I didn’t know I had, and to have the bravery to take risks and try new things.

When I reflect on the early life of my career, I’ve realised that these leaders were informally my sponsors. Effectively, it was what those leaders did, that made a huge difference to my career progression.

My first sponsor was my line manager who encouraged me to step out of a specialist legal role and move into D&I.  Before that my whole identity was as a ‘lawyer’. I had never thought of doing anything else. My line manager encouraged me to move into a role that was more strategic and about influencing culture and behaviour change. I developed new skills and was exposed to new people across the business.

My second sponsor was formed after many years of working together. While this sponsor was an integral part of my success in my role at the time, he remains to this day, one of my most active mentors and champions.

When you build deep and trusted relationships they can endure for many years or even the rest of your career and morph and change with the steps you take.

I know that I was lucky to have some amazing leaders along my journey to help shape and excel my career. But the reality is that this experience is not as easily accessible for most women.

As a part of her PhD Dr Natalie Galea (co-founder & Director of Cultivate) studied male and female career progression in the construction industry. Her research found that informal sponsorship accelerated the careers of young males. Informally sponsorship happens organically in companies when male leaders take an interest in younger males and when promotion practices aren’t codified or transparent. The investment made by these male leaders in getting to know the strengths and aspirations of the younger males in their teams pays off in advocacy for key projects.

My professional experiences combined with Natalie’s research became the catalyst for change- a chance to level the playing field.

Cultivate Sponsorship is a high impact tech enabled sponsorship program that helps both companies and individuals to develop, to create meaningful career progression and hence retain their people.

Over 7 months, cultivate takes the sponsor and sponsee on a journey of curated content, learning and development, while nurturing a strategic relationship within the business.

Cultivate is grounded in Australian research but it’s globally valid and can be used by people all around the world.

Want to grow your talent through sponsorship? hello@cultivatesponsorship.com