Most of you will agree with me that social media has become a basic need. At least that is how we treat it. Under Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, social media would rank together with food, clothing, and shelter. Many of us wouldn’t admit to that but in reality, we do treat social media like food. It’s the first thing we check when we wake up, we are constantly online during the day and it’s the last thing we look at before going to bed. And in the unlikely event we forget our phones at home we get so disoriented as if we have left medicine that we need to manage an illness or condition.
We live in a world with information overload. There is more information being thrown at us than we can process. That’s why the average attention span for a message on social media is eight seconds. That’s how short we focus on a message sent to us via Twitter, Facebook, or any other app. Hence the reasons anyone wanting to sell anything on the internet is advised to say as much possible in the shortest time possible.
Social media became important for me in my forties. I didn’t rely much on it in my first half because I didn’t need new friends. Everything was working so why complicate it with friend requests. Word of mouth was my favorite app and it served me well both at a personal and business level. This blog would not have reached the many it now does without the help of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I have come to appreciate the power of social media and when well utilized can bring great success. As a result, I spend time there searching for knowledge. I use it to put myself out there, seek relevant opportunities and learn.
Once in a while, we come across a hidden gem that speaks profoundly to our current situation in life. I found one such gem on LinkedIn. It was a Ted talk done by Carla Harris in 2018 on how to find the person who can help you get ahead at work. Also known as a sponsor. But not in the Kenyan version of a sponsor that refers to getting someone paying for your bills and lifestyle in exchange for negotiable affection he he.
Carla speaks from her experience working at Wall Street and the lessons gained from watching how people get promoted, ignored, or demoted in their careers. These appraisals were mostly subjective. If one had someone seating at the appraisal table to vouch for them then they stood a good chance of proceeding up the ladder. You can be a high performer at work but if there’s no one noticing your good work then you are laboring in vain. We need to work smart and hard, ensure that the right eyes see our output, and have a rapport with the right sponsor who can pound the table on our behalf behind closed doors.
That made me question if I am maximizing on the sponsors I have within reach. At 40 and depending on how you have spent those years, we have a fair share of social capital. But many of us don’t utilize it well because we are unaware of it or are lacking in confidence. Chris Hart addressed this in his Sunday Nation column last week – How to stand out from the crowd and be memorable. He advises us to work on our CV and appearance so that we can attract the opportunities we seek.
I have been doing that intentionally over the last few years because I learned that when people hear about me and get interested, they will google me or view my profile on LinkedIn. Visibility is key if we are to attract the right sponsors. Good sponsors have spent a lifetime earning the reputational currency and influence so they spend it very carefully. If we want some of that currency spent on us, we have to clean up pretty well and walk our talk.
Hart gave us permission to work on our self-confidence and go for every opportunity we find. Now that sounds selfish and kimbelembele for some of us. Folks that’s the only way we will advance and live the life we desire and deserve. Hart also says that “being successful means understanding what truly motivates you, and what you want to achieve. And creating a niche for yourself so you don’t have too many competitors.” I like his selfish advice. We would all do with fewer competitors in our respective occupations.
That is the work we have to do if we are to stand a chance of attracting good sponsors who will take a chance on us. Remember they will be putting their reputation on the line once they vouch for us. If we let them down then they lose currency. I have a few sponsors who I’m still aligning with opportunities as they come along and I believe a door to my ideal platform will open as a result. it’s just a matter of time.
At the end of Carla’s talk, she urged the would-be sponsors in the room to spend their currency once they find someone worth sponsoring. The plan is not just to hoard it. The more you spend your social capital and power, the more you earn. That challenged me to look at this sponsor situation from the other side of the table. Am I a would-be sponsor too? As we seek sponsorship may we also be on the lookout for folks whom we can spend our currency on and sponsor them. We likely have more clout than we think.
Some homework today. Google your name. what comes up?