Sponsors are statistically the most important external influence on your career. A sponsor is someone who literally talks about you and your ability without you being in the room. Of course, sponsors need to have positions of influence and opportunity themselves to be able to confer some of those same benefits on those they sponsor.

This is the key ingredient that many people born in the right swim lane have over those who were born in the tougher swim lanes. They have sponsors in high places who make sure they have opportunities to move quickly up the career ladder.

That said, everyone can seek and build sponsors if they’re conscious of the benefits and plan out how best to find sponsors suited to their needs. Great leaders sponsor great talent. They pull more junior people up the ladder by making sure they’re spoken about very positively, have the right development opportunities presented to them, and that promotions and new roles are available.