The Secret to Professional Development in the Private Sector…
2 minutes to read
Advancement in the military was a straightforward process. You knew the career markers: schools, qualifications, exams, and key billets. Some jobs had less upward mobility. Usually, that was because they didn’t need more people in the senior ranks. But where opportunity existed, for the most part, you were on equal footing with everyone else. If only the private sector worked the same way.
The Obscure Process of Career Advancement
Compared to the military, civilian organizations have a mysterious path to promotion. Often the criteria for advancing aren’t clear. You may not even know who can promote you. Coming from the military’s up or out atmosphere, it’s frustrating for your future prospects to be so cloudy.
Besides, private sector organizations and the military are competitive in different ways. Your success in the military came from being the best team player. Camaraderie meant your colleagues were genuinely happy when you advanced. Sure, there were backstabbers. But such people were rare.
In civilian life, people tend to focus on one-on-one competition. It’s much more of a zero-sum game. Companies pit their employees one against the other to get a promotion. Even when there’s no monkey business, it stills feels underhanded.
It might not be so bad if it weren’t for one thing.
Professional advancement has a big impact on job satisfaction. Succeeding means learning to play the game while holding on to your integrity.
Get a Sponsor Not a Mentor
Research from the Center for Talent Innovation uncovered the key. Veterans lack sponsors. Transition specialists encourage you to find a mentor. Some suggest getting several. A sponsor goes beyond a mentor.
A mentor can offer you:
- A sounding board
- Referral to resources
A sponsor goes further by:
- Coaching your professional development
- Defending you against naysayers
- Advocating for you to senior leaders, especially behind closed doors
When they have a sponsor, 23% of male and 19% of female veterans have greater satisfaction with their job progression. They’re less likely to feel management overlooks their skills. This applies especially to soft skills like team building and transparent decision-making.
Also, they’re less likely to get penalized for exhibiting military behavior that’s misinterpreted. What we see as a straightforward approach can strike civilians as abrupt or harsh. A sponsor helps adjust communication style while mitigating any damage done.
My free guide, The Only Five Steps You Need to Take to Get High-Paying Job, explains the importance of relationships. But using them to get a job is just the beginning. You need to keep building new ones.
Look for a sponsor who:
- Has solid influence with senior leadership in your company.
- Will be direct in giving you feedback and coaching you to improve.
- Will advance your career by mitigating the damage done by your mistakes and highlighting your accomplishments.
You don't need to be young to be a protégé. Finding a sponsor is your first step toward success at a company. It also will help build a foundation on which your job satisfaction rests.
Do you have a sponsor at your company?
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