Q: How does one build and maintain an authentic brand within the workspace and externally
Integrity, reliability, consistency, being organized and quality work?
I am almost tempted to say probably in that order as integrity, reliability is personality traits inherent to one’s character whereas with the latter one could argue that it can be trained and developed in time. You need to understand the thing that makes managers want to staff you on the projects and for peers to want to work with you and often it’s the combination the above 5
Q: What is a sponsor and how important is it to identify and build a relationship with a sponsor at work?
Absolutely. The world of work is a difficult one to navigate alone especially as a junior and the trick is identifying someone whom you truly connect with and most importantly who has time for you. I love Carla Harris’s distinction between a mentor and a Sponsor and to paraphrase her, a mentor is a nice to have in your career success but a sponsor is absolutely crucial to your success. To paraphrase Carla, a sponsor is that person who is in the room when important decisions are being made about your career. And often these important career decisions are made without you in the room and you need someone to be presenting your case and arguing on your behalf. This can be in relation to increases, bonuses and promotions. They must absolutely see your value.
Q: How does one overcome an age gap between you and a sponsor at work?
Identifying commonalities and shared interests as a basis for a general relationship. As indicated above a sponsor is someone with a seat at the table and often your senior so often by definition they will be older than you. They are won over by stellar performance, and you being able to bring this to their attention if they have missed it. This has to be consistent. A sponsor will not be singing the praises of an average performer. Also, your sponsor must be armed with a clearly articulated understanding of what you want realistically.
Q: What was the tipping point that lead to your career success?
Having been a startup entrepreneur for the second time around can be very humbling and I am not sure I have found that tipping point that has led to success yet. But I will tell you what led to my deciding to take the entrepreneurial leap. It was my real and deep love for what I do, my willingness to work hard, my knowledge of the industries that I have serviced over a number of years and the relationships I had cultivated and as a result my strong conviction that so long as I keep at it and always play to my strengths, while keeping an eye on the lower hanging fruit and quick wins, there is no option BUT to succeed.
Recruitment is a rejection game from both sides most of the time and you need to have the thick skin to roll with the punches and deal with huge disappointments without taking it personally. You have to be able to self – motivate, pick yourself up and tackle the next role and deliver good quality regardless of the many disappointments.
Q: How does one create/schedule a time to invest in relationship currency?
Understanding the other individual’s availability and that time for most professionals is a scares commodity. Come prepared, have an understanding of how you would like to be assisted and present your case. It cannot just be to meet for drinks for the sake of drinks but rather drinks with a discussion point in mind. Strong performance is crucial.
Q: Are there any intentional activities that you recommend to young professionals which are a MUST-DO to build their brand/relationships currency?
It goes without saying that networking is important beyond just your nucleus team but across the broader organization and the industry. This is not to say one needs to attend each and every industry function but identify key players or networking forums in your organisation and or broader industry that are relevant and where there is a platform for you to perform.
Q: What would you say is the easiest way that one can successfully penetrate a relationship with a client, manager, sponsor, etc?
The easiest ways to penetrate a relationship is to respond to a need. For me, this is very easy. It is identifying or understanding the key skills that the organizations are finding difficult to access, finding individuals who fit these requirements and then facilitating a discussion between the two. This insight is often not gained directly through my clients but from my networks and genuine relationships that have been cultivated over a number of years. The simplest questions are the best and simply asking a well-placed individual “What are you struggling with, in your company and why” can yield a treasure trove of insight. It is important to make yourself visible for the right reason or as Cheryl Sandberg wrote in her book of the same title “ lean in” and take up challenges, some of which may stretch you
Q: How does one build confidence and avoid insecurities to capitalize on a crucial relationship?
I am very careful to commoditize relationships and believe there has to be an element of being genuine to start with, without the sole purpose of capitalization. So one should be building relationships throughout your entire organization. While it may be hard to know from the onset who the decision makers are, in time you will develop this understanding. There is no science to it and my general rule of thumb is if it feels awkward from a gut feel to capitalize on that relationship, it probably is. It probably is not the right time. People are also in tune and can detect someone who simply wants to capitalize on relationships. By investing in the relationship and identifying genuine areas of commonality and you being credible in the sponsor’s eyes and consistent in your achievements, the confidence comes
Q: What advice do you have for introverts in the financial industry who need to maximize their relationship currency?
For introverts, it is very difficult for them to put themselves forward in a larger grouping so I suggest more intimate smaller sessions for them to have the natural space to participate and access the individuals they seek. Remember introverts do not necessarily lack confidence but find it difficult to put themselves “out there” in a larger crowd or will rarely do so without direct prompting.
Author: Ms Nozipho Riba
Executive Director Raindrop Human Capital
(Specialist and Executive recruitment)