Angel investors offer their money to fledgling businesses with a view to seeing a return. They are angels in the sense that the investment of their time and/or expertise can be the difference between whether a business succeeds or fails.
So, it is with our careers. Others make an investment in our development with a view to seeing a return by basking in the warm glow of knowing they contributed to our success. These people too are like angels in the sense that without them, making career headway can be much more difficult, if not impossible.
There are essentially three types of career angels:
Mentors, typically someone more senior in your organisation or profession who guides and supports you to develop in your careers.
Sponsors who are again more senior in your organisation or profession who openly advocate on your behalf.
Professional and organisational networks that offer an opportunity to make connections and increase your visibility.
While it is possible to have mentors, who act as sponsors and vice-versa, true sponsorship is a misunderstood and under-utilised career advancement strategy.
There are significant differences in how men and women utilise these angels. Women are generally over-mentored and under-sponsored. They also tend to build deep rather than broad networks. To an extent this is driven by women wanting to connect with others like themselves and being less willing to entertain the prospect of mentors, sponsors or networks that have different values and ways of operating.
Regardless of gender, however, it behoves all of us to consider how well we are doing in seeking out and cultivating the support of these three career angels.