Are you lucky enough to have a business mentor?
It could be someone who is either successful in your particular field or generally successful in business, or who takes you under his/her wing. If so, that relationship can be a huge boon to your success.
Being mentored is well known as a means of career advancement, but there’s another relationship which I believe is equally as valuable -- and possibly easier to come by: Advocates.
Advocates are people who are willing to speak up for your abilities, talents and value. They are your champions, because they know you and believe in just how much you have to offer any organization lucky enough to get you.
Here’s the main difference between a mentor and an advocate:
A mentor is someone with the knowledge, experience and advice that can help you learn what you need to know to move up in your chosen field.
An advocate is someone with the power to hire you, advance or promote you, or influence someone else who could do so.
Building a network of advocates is a great career-advancing goal. This isn’t a formal relationship; no “advocacy contract” will be signed.
You probably already have people in your life who are your advocates (besides your parents or spouse, of course). Your primary advocate might well be your immediate supervisor.
With most people, the more you help them, the more they will be willing and interested in helping you. So, the more you make your boss look good, and make his or her job easier, the more willing he or she will be to advocate for you if and when any opportunity arises.
Of course, it’s possible that no matter how much of a star you are, your boss might be only out for him- or herself. If that’s the case, consider transferring to a different department with a different supervisor -- your primary advocate is that important.
Clients, vendors, and co-workers also can be strong secondary advocates. You should always be on the lookout for places where you can find and build new advocates. As with all things business, it’s really less about business and more about relationships. Look for opportunities to meet, assist, and befriend others -- both in your firm and outside it -- who might become advocates.
Look for ways to work alongside your desired advocates -- or receive recognition by them -- perhaps by volunteering for projects that they are involved in.
As always, walk your talk, do the best job possible, and live up to your commitments -- this is professional development 101. No one will go to bat for people who don’t keep their word, turn in a disappointing performance, aren’t excellent at what they do, are frequently late, sloppy and disorganized, etc.
Doing the best possible job is your responsibility, without that you’ll have a hard time finding anyone to advocate for you. (Perhaps not even your mother!)
Here’s an excerpt from my book, Market Your MAGIC: A Guide to Reward and Recognition: “Make the time and effort now to surround yourself with people who can help you reach your goals -- and do it as early in your career as possible. Be proactive!”
Advocates are one of the five main factors in my MAGIC formula for self-marketing success and career advancement -- receiving the recognition and reward that comes with it. Intrigued? You can order the book here.