Sponsored Networking:

Building Vital Professional Relationships
By Scott Conking
Principal and Head of Culture & Diversity, Vanguard


n the hIt TV show Mad Men, the office is largely white and largely male, and those who don’t fit that profile are largely left out. Though today’s workplace is infinitely more diverse than what we see on Mad Men, it’s still true that homogeneity can limit inclusivity. But an approach called sponsored networking can help emerging diverse talent to build the professional relationships that are so vital to their success. We all know that ca- dominated by white, reers and leadership Christian, predomiteams are built based on nantly suburban males the abilities, engagement with traditional families, levels, and aspirations of most of the young aspirtalent rising through an ing leaders could easily organization. However, build rapport with the movement through the leaders in the organizaranks of an organization tion. In today’s more dican also accelerate on verse, mobile, and tranthe strength of personal sient workplace, aspiring connections forged over leaders do not necessarily many years. These rela- have the same interests tionships may be based and experiences as the on shared interests such organization’s leaders. as sports, educational How should compainstitutions, similar fam- nies address this chalily experiences, religious lenge? I believe comand ethnic communi- panies can no longer ties, common hobbies, rely on traditional comand neighborhoods. monalities to build a And what could be more leadership team. If they natural than to develop a try to, they’ll be relying bond based on a shared on a shrinking, oneconnection? dimensional talent pool, In a world where the and one that might not educated workforce was connect with a diverse
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workforce. Instead, organizations must make special efforts to help emerging diverse talent build relationships. One effective way to do that is by using sponsors to help emerging leaders bridge interpersonal gaps and develop relationships. Sponsorship differs from mentorship; it means being omnipresent in the professional life of an emerging leader, whereas mentorship tends to be on an asneeded basis. A sponsor provides proactive, unsolicited, and candid feedback, context and advice. A sponsor also advocates for the emerging leader, attesting to his or her talents and promoting his or her consideration for roles and programs. Through sponsored networking, the sponsor involves the emerging leaders in events and experiences that can lead to professional relationships with senior leaders that might not develop

“a sponsor provides proactive, unsolicited, and candid feedback, context and advice.”

otherwise. Sponsored networking means constant connecting, brokered interactions, social activities, outreach, and active involvement in Employee Resource Groups by both senior and emerging leaders. Sponsorships can help emerging talent to build the relationships they’ll need in order to engage and thrive in an organization. It’s a focused approach, but I think that it’s very necessary in today’s diverse workplace. It’s great that we’ve come a long way from the Mad Men era, but we must do more. Building diverse leadership teams will require focused efforts that engage established leaders in close sponsor relationships with emerging talent. PDJ


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