#1 Secret to Career Advancement….

The #1 secret to advance in your data career? If you think its a degree or expensive bootcamp, you’re wrong.

Unfortunately, many data science and analytics education focuses solely on the basic skills to get a job. Very few, if any, teach you how to build a successful career and advance beyond that. So I will let you in on the secret.

What is the secret? Getting sponsors.

What is a sponsor you ask? Well lets first introduce 3 catalysts in everyone’s careers:

  1. Coach
  2. Mentor
  3. Sponsor

What is a Coach?

A coach is someone where you can ask very discrete or technical questions to. Such as:

  1. What are some tips to make better presentations?
  2. What resources do you recommend to learn causal impact analysis?
  3. What are the biggest mistakes you see beginner analysts make on the job?

And so forth.

Coaches don’t need to know your personal story or even your weaknesses to be a great coach to you. Nor, do you need to develop a strong personal relationship.

A coach can be someone on your own team at work. They also may not have an influential position to refer you to any opportunities or if they do, that’s not really their priority. They normally provide their expertise to answer your very specific questions.

What is a Mentor?

Unlike a coach, the mentor is someone you can share more vulnerable parts of yourself with and build a more personal relationship. Certain topics of discussion can be:

  1. Should I get a Masters in Analytics or an MBA?
  2. I feel I am at a crossroad in my career and don’t know if I should be a Data Engineer or Data Scientist.
  3. I have been struggling at work, and need some feedback on how to navigate.
  4. I’m trying to get to the next level, what should I focus on?

And so forth.

These topics are best answered by someone who has developed a more personal relationship and can provide more tailored feedback. They know who you are and your aspirations. And thus, they provide their answers only with those things in mind.

Also, these topics have more vulnerability than what you would discuss with a coach. So, a mentor should be someone you trust dearly.

What is a Sponsor?

Now unlike the mentor, you should avoid sharing much vulnerabilities or mistakes to a sponsor. In any conversation with a sponsor, you should only be discussing all the good work you’ve been doing.

Why? Because the sponsor is the person who will be speaking your name in rooms of opportunities that you are not in. Unlike the coach or the mentor, your sponsor will be a person of power and influence in an organization or industry.

When upper management is discussing advancements in a closed room, a sponsor would be in that room speaking passionately about your great work.

When a team is discussing a new job opening that they need filled, a sponsor would immediately think about you and discuss why you would be an excellent fit for the job.

Now understand that when a person of influence refers you in these situations, they are putting their own name and reputation on the line. They will not do so for those they don’t think are qualified to do the job.

Why Do You Need a Sponsor?

As long as people are involved in decisions for promotions and hiring, subjectivity will always play a factor. I know from personal experience that the smartest and most qualified do not always get the position.

If nobody knows who you are and what you’re doing, you can be easily overlooked by those who spend time and form relationships. Even if they are less talented. It’s an unfortunate truth. And when that happens, it’s easy to become bitter.

Majority of jobs are given through networking. And in this day and age of perfectly optimized resumes made with ChatGPT, why leave your success to such small chances?

It’s not that you should be networking. You must build your network.

Hopefully, you can understand how to identify these 3 types of individuals in your own network. If you do not have any sponsors, start working on building relationships to get some. They do not come easy, so be patient. I always say that investing your time in building your network will pay you dividends in your life and career.

Ready to Accelerate Your Data Career?

Our Data in Motion Academy has a new Elite Mentorship Program with more personalized mentoring on top of our current pro benefits:

  • 30-minute 1:1 coaching calls with a mentor 2x a month.
    • This will include one optional mock interview when needed
  • Personalized skills roadmap
  • LinkedIn and resume audits.
  • And more

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  1. As a person new to the data analytics world, I currently need all of these catalysts. Kedeisha, thanks for explaining the distinctions between the three key roles.

    1. Glad it was helpful. I think we mistakenly think each category would be a mentor, but we can mess up good potential connections if we do.

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