Use your mentor. If your company doesn’t offer formal sponsorships, join its mentoring program and ask for a mentor several levels up from you who can develop into a sponsor.
Network with senior execs. At every company meeting, introduce yourself to two people who could influence your career. Volunteer for cross-functional projects.
Enlist your boss to help. Ideally, your sponsor will be a level or two above your boss. To defuse any political stickiness, explain to your boss what you’re seeking and see if she will introduce you.
Consider connections. Choose a sponsor who is well-liked and networks well.
And once you have one...
Cultivate them. Set an automatic meeting once per month, such as 15 minutes every third Wednesday (it’s easier to cancel than to reschedule).
Come prepared. Choose a “nugget” to discuss each time you meet, and email it in advance. Good choices include success on a recent project or a goal you’d like to meet over the next year. “Don’t always go in seeking advice. Make sure your sponsor knows what you’ve accomplished,” says Arin Reeves, president of Nextions, a Chicago-based consultancy specializing in leadership and inclusion training for Fortune 500 companies. For instance, if a project went well, ask for a chance to present what you learned to a larger group.
Think frequent, not long. Routine contact is more important than duration—so six ten-minute meetings will do more for the relationship than a single hour-long lunch.