CITY GIRL: Ladies, want to get to the C-Suite? Get a sponsor!
Dear young professional women who want to occupy that corner office and scale the corporate ladder.
Forget about mentors and “advisors”, what you really need is a sponsor. Yes, a sponsor, an older executive, preferably in the C-suite who will stick out his neck for you because, let’s face it, the corporate world is a shark tank.
A girl in the corporate world, like Liverpool FC, must never walk alone. What you need is somebody with a bit of muscle and power, a person who will directly and favourably influence your career.
Somebody who believes in you, who believes in your ability, who understands your Rolls-Royce mind and who has nothing to lose if you land that promotion.
The biggest mistake many girls in the corporate world make is to let older women give you advice and “mentor” you. Those older women don’t care about you. Why would they care about you, a pretty young thing (PYT) strutting your stuff all over Kimathi Street in red heels and a sheath-like dress that gives an x-ray outline of your body?
Those older women will mentor you only up to a certain level and drop you like a hot potato the moment they feel threatened by you.
Women have never been known to help each other out and they will not start in 2016. In any case, if mentees were to be honest, they will tell you that mentors want you to do well, but not better than them.
Sponsors, on the other hand, want you to take over from them, and that is exactly the spirit that should drive a young, professional woman.
So girls, firm up your red lipstick and wear those sky-high heels and confidently approach that sponsor seated in that air-conditioned C-Suite, preferably a male who will be more than eager to take you under his wing.
A sponsor who will put your name in the shortlist for that looming promotion. A sponsor who will fight your battles, those battles you are too young or inexperienced to fight.
A sponsor who will throw in a good word for you. A sponsor who will negotiate a nice deal for you, when, as research shows, young women are often too shy to negotiate better salaries and perks at work. A sponsor, whom the first name that pops in his mind for that career-making assignment will be yours.
A sponsor who will include you in high powered meetings to give you a window and introduce you to the world. A sponsor, who, when things get tough, will text you and tell you to chin up.
It does not hurt to endear yourself to that sponsor, and I mean impress him with your good ideas, your talents (even those hidden) and most important, your ambition.
I will let you into a little secret. Sponsors love a woman with fierce ambition. They are turned on by a woman who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.
Most sponsors are happy to make you their “project” and cheer you on as you join their club of powerful boys. Forget those older females who tell you how they “struggled” to get to the top over tea and mandazi. Those woiye stories never helped a girl clinch a promotion.
If anything, older females in the corporate world are known to tear down younger, fresher women because they are threatened by their guts, confidence and ambition. They will prune you the moment you surprise them that you are actually smarter than they hoped you’d be.
The glass ceiling is specifically erected and cemented by these “mentors” to keep other women away.
Let fellow women talk and spread rumours about you. You are either successful with a lot of enemies or unsuccessful with a lot of friends.
What do you want with your life? A mediocre, unimpressive life with a lot of friends, or an excellent career (with a lot of haters?). Would you rather have a phonebook full of friends or a bank account full of money? Think again.
A sponsor will not only hold your hand throughout your career, he will watch out for you. He will tell you about the possible pitfalls in your industry and, most important, a sponsor will help you navigate through any crisis.
The best and most profound career advice I have ever received was not from fellow women whom I bump into at the ladies, it was from male, experienced industry gurus who believed in me.
Let them hate, after all, this week they hate you, next week they love you, both weeks you get paid!