In this episode of The Career Rx we’ll discuss:

  • The allies you need – in addition to sponsors and mentors – in your network
  • Why you need to have a variety of different functional allies in your network
  • 7 types of allies, and what each one can do for you
  • What you should be doing in return

In the old days, you’d get assigned a work mentor, and that was that. More recently, there’s a lot of discussion about having a sponsor in addition to a mentor, and savvy docs know the difference between those two types of allies (and why you need both). However, it’s not sufficient to have just one or two people in your corner. Plus, it’s more effective to have several different types of people in your robust network to help you continue moving upward in your career – or to help you when you want to change completely.

I was inspired to put together this episode after I received a message on LinkedIn from one of my very loose connections (someone I really don’t know at all) asking if I would be willing to mentor her as she navigates a career change. So, in thinking about mentoring someone for a career change, it’s helpful to consider more broadly the kind of people who can really help you.

In this episode, we’ll talk more about these 7 allies that you need in your network, why you need them, and what you yourself should be doing to add value to the mix.

The 7 allies are:

  • The Flag Flyer
  • The Mirror
  • The Booster
  • The Political Strategist
  • The Coach
  • The Bridge Builder
  • The Influencer

As you listen to this episode, take out a pen and paper and start writing down some of the people you know that fill these roles. Listen to the end as I share exactly how you can approach them to create an even stronger connection and keep them in your network.

“I think well beyond having sponsors and mentors, the most powerful network is filled with allies who perform specific roles” – Marjorie Stiegler


In this Episode:

[00:43] The importance of allies in networking and why this topic came up

[02:27] Who do you need in your network specifically?

[04:04] Learn more about the Flag Flyer

[05:11] Why it’s important to have someone in your corner who can reflect the truth back to you

[06:09] Who you need when you don’t want advice or truth (there’s a time and a place for both)

[06:59] Who are your political allies?

[08:11] Why you should have a non-directive coach in your corner

[9:00] Is your ‘authenticity’ really a fixed mindset that’s holding you back?

[09:43] Do you know how to leverage the bridge builders?

[11:00] The influencers in your organization are not always the people at the ‘top’

[12:19] Why you should have a list of people who fill each of these roles.

[15:21] How you should add to the networking ecosystem


Links and Resources:

Episode 19: Physician Non-Clinical Jobs: How To Get Your Foot in the Door

Episode 36: Are These Authenticity Traps Holding You Back?

Episode 29: Why Use a Physician Recruiter? 5 Things You Need to Know





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TRANSCRIPT: Episode 37: Beyond Mentors and Sponsors: 7 Allies You Need in Your Network

Hey there, welcome to the Career Prescription. I’m your host, Marjorie Stiegler. This podcast is all about the important stuff. They don’t teach you in medical school, about how to treat your career, like the business it really is, and how to be strategic about your success. I’ll show you how to use modern strategies to get ahead, create your own path and do more of what you love. Every episode is inspired by questions from listeners just like you. So be sure to subscribe. And of course, send me those questions, so I can use them on a future episode, so you don’t miss anything. Be sure to always check the show notes on my website.

Are you ready? Let’s get into it.

Welcome back. Today we’re going to talk about the importance of allies and networking, to create that robust group of allies. We’re going to talk specifically about what kind of allies should be on your list and in your network. So today’s episode was inspired by a really quick little exchange I got from Paige A., who is a listener who writes, “Hi there. I’m interested in a career in medical affairs like you have. But I don’t know how to get a job like that. Would you be open to mentoring me?”

Quick and simple. This was actually something that came to me right through LinkedIn. And actually, I get emails and notes like this on a pretty regular basis, as I’m sure many of you do, too. I’ll save my answer Paige, until the end of the episode.

But her note inspired me to think about the kinds of people you need in your network. And I personally think this goes far beyond having a mentor. And even far beyond having a sponsor. I think that’s kind of the current advice, right, which used to be have a mentor have good set of mentors, then it sort of evolved into having a sponsor, right a sponsor being a person who will spend their own professional capital, right sort of invest their own reputation on your behalf to try to connect you suggest you recommend you and opportunities.

Whereas nowadays, at least a mentor is more often thought of as directive, someone who is more senior to you as been where you want to go, and is sort of giving advice and sharing experiences, but often from their own life.

So I think well beyond having sponsors and mentors, you need to have that powerful network. And I think there’s a lot of different roles that we need those allies to fill. So who do you need in your network specifically?

And in thinking about Paige, if you are going to go about making a career shift, or you’ve realized it’s really time to get promoted, or you wanted to get into some sort of hobby or side gig and you didn’t know how to start? If you want to do something that requires sort of a major push like that? Who can you call on to help you?

People are cold calling and cold emailing folks through LinkedIn, but I think there’s a better way to go about it. But more before you can go about it. You’ve got to know who you need in your network. So that’s the topic of today’s podcast.

I’m going to suggest you need a variety of very specific allies in your network. I’ll list seven of them. And I’m categorizing them here according to how you might expect it to benefit from the relationship. So this may not sound like a very touchy feely, warm, fuzzy paradigm. But really, it’s sort of a very practical list of the functional role that people can play in your professional development life.

Now, before we get into that, I’m going to say I think networking should be a reciprocal multi-directional ecosystem, really. So for everyone on your list, I hope that you are filling a need for them as well. If they’re influencing and connecting on your behalf, I hope you’re following through in a way that really reflects well on them and makes them proud and glad that they spent their professional capital on you. And even if you aren’t doing anything specifically for them, I hope you’re serving in these various roles for other people in your network. So it is that reciprocal ecosystem.

Okay, let me get into the list. Here are the seven allies I think that you need in your network. Ally Number One, you need somebody to fly your flag, right? Who is going to just share proactively your highlight reel? Who’s going to be kind of singing your praises? and is willing to do it, of course, if you ask them to, but is likely to do it, even if you don’t. You need multiple of these people, right? You need someone who is super excited about you glad to see you succeed and excited and enthused to tell others about it. This is really important. You know, for many people, it’s a smart strategy to get one or two of these allies right there in your workplace, where it is reciprocal, and you can just shoot each other a note to say, “Hey, here’s something I did. I’m really proud of,” you know, whenever it seems appropriate, “Can you mention it to people?” Right, and this is a really great way of a mutually beneficial relationship where you’re just kind of bringing to your consciousness, an effort to shine a spotlight on that other person.

This is really important in terms of raising money. Professional visibility, because everybody’s too busy to notice what anybody else is doing. And many people feel a little bit hesitant to toot their own horn. So have someone who will fly your flag.

Alright, have someone who will be your mirror, this is Ally Number Two, a mirror is intended just how it sounds. When you look in the mirror, someone who will reflect back to you exactly what is real, someone who will give you honest feedback. Someone who knows you well enough to be able to be very, very candid. And who cares about you enough that wants to give you feedback that will challenge you to develop, you know, those are the hard conversations, they’re often much harder than just giving you know, something that’s sugar coated or not really accurate feedback at all.

So it’s really an important relationship to someone who will give you that honest feedback that you know and trust sufficiently that they have your best interests in mind. And so you’ll want to receive that feedback and also that they’re giving it to you for the purpose of helping you develop so They’ve got to know you and your goals and your aspirations a little bit as well. So that’s number two.

All right, Ally Number Three, you need an emotional support system, who is basically going to give you a pep talk. This is the person that will give you unconditional support. Even when there’s feedback, they could give you great advice, but you just want to listen to it right? You don’t really want any you want a pep talk, but you don’t necessarily want that challenging, constructive feedback at that time. And you may not want any actual advice or coaching either.

Sometimes, you know, we just want someone to listen and we just want someone to support us. Even if there’s something we should have done differently. Even if we’re in the wrong, even if there is a mistake. There’s a time and a place for that kind of feedback. But we all need someone that we can go to just for that sort of safe place to fall where we know that they again care about us quite a bit and will lift us up and give us a positivity boost.

Okay, number four are our politically savvy allies, who will help us understand the ins and outs of the bigger organization. So the cultural norms of an organization and sort of how things get done, how people work together and how they negotiate things across different parts of the organization or the business is really, really important. You know, all the best ideas in the world, but if you don’t know how to get them sort of socialized, and in front of the right people with kind of the right tones or packed up in the right way, in order for people to be receptive to them, your ideas aren’t going to go very far. And if your ideas, you know, might be so great that they could result in new opportunities for you, maybe a new leadership role for you, maybe a totally, you know, transformative paradigm for the organization. But if you can’t navigate, politically, you’re in trouble. So you need someone who’s really skilled there.

And that’s, I think, a little bit more rare than some of these other qualities to have someone who has a long institutional history and a lot of political savvy, gets what makes other people tick, and how to negotiate and engage with them is really important.

Okay, Ally Number Five, this is your coach. Now, I’m not thinking here of like expert performance coaching that’s actually giving you direct feedback to help you acquire proficiency or expertise in a focused skill where they’re saying like, here, you’re doing this wrong and do it like this the way that you might say with a sports coach.

Here, I’m thinking about non directive coaching. Really someone who will help you think through personal and professional decisions by kind of guiding you through a thought paradigm can help you to have some introspection to arrive at things that that’s right for you and who can challenge you also to kind of think outside of some of your existing beliefs.

So you may want to check our recent episode on authenticity, and one of the authenticity traps revolving around fixed mindset. And self limiting beliefs are super important if you have a coach in your life who can help identify when you’re hitting roadblocks when you’re thinking through again, high stakes, important, personal professional decisions. And when you’re thinking about what you can do and what you should do to help you to break through some barriers there.

By the way, I don’t think this person necessarily needs to be a professional coach. I do think coaching is super, as a profession. And I think, you know, having worked with an executive coach before myself, I think that’s great, but I think you can have allies who serve that coach role, just as well. So that that’s something to consider.

Okay, Ally Number Six is the bridge builder. So you know how you probably have at least one or two colleagues who seem to know exactly who to go to about a specific question. And who is the person if they may be in the department, they may be in another department, they may be in a totally different institution, they may be somebody who is totally outside of your circle. But your bridge builder always seems to know.

I can think of one or two people that I’ve worked with like this. They just know everybody in every nook and cranny and they’re more than happy to make an introduction. So they have a very large diverse network, and a super willing to connect you. Bridge builders are really important. If you can be a bridge builder, then then you will really position yourself to be indispensable. I think that’s a really unique skill as well, especially if you’re a little more introverted. It’s hard to keep up with in sort of little, little touches. You’re sort of looser, right? All the people kind of know, in the periphery, but, you know, folks who know everybody’s name and have nurtured little relationships over time with people and they can put you in touch. So that’s a really important ally, the bridge builder.

Then ally number seven, the influencer Who has the power to make things happen? Sometimes these are the typical power people that you would think of right? They’re the bosses, right? It’s the department chair, it’s the C level folks or whatever. But a lot of times, there are other people who may be at your peer level, or they may even be junior to you, who are just tremendously influential and have the power to make things happen.

So perhaps not by their title or their official role, but they are just persuasive enough that what they say, people really listen to, and if they say, something should be done, and you’re the person to do it, that’s very likely to be effective. Or if they say something should not be done, something that you think is a risk and not a very good path forward. They may be able to help influence in that way.

A lot of people think of influencers as being those sponsors who can put you into a certain position, but I see a little bit of a distinction there, in that a sponsor very often, isn’t it influencer, right in order to be effective and promoting you and suggesting and recommending you, they do need to have a little bit of that authority to put you in those spots. But an influencer is someone who really does not need explicit authority, but does have quite a bit of influence on tangible outcomes.

All right, some of those people might be pretty close to your definition of a mentor or sponsor. And absolutely, there’s overlap. There’s overlap, I think, among the the roles on this list, and even just in the term mentor sponsor, but what I think is helpful about having a list like this, is that helps you to do exactly what Paige did, which is to go about identifying people that are already connected to you, and what role or roles they serve, and basically writing it down pretty explicitly.

And then when you’ve identified the areas in which you need to grow your network, you start to reach out and ask and that may not always necessarily be in a cold email or cold call. In fact, if It’s more effective if it isn’t. But that shouldn’t dissuade you from ever doing that. Doing this sort of audit, making this list of these allies, and of course, you can add your own other ally categories that you might need. And really identifying the people that serve those roles for you. And you might even let them know specifically that that’s how you view them.

Right that, that that’s one of the reasons you value your relationship with them so much is because they really help you to negotiate things politically, or they are an influencer on your behalf, or that they fly your flag and you really value that, or that, you know, you can get really honest, constructive feedback. It’s great for people to know what you treasure the most about them, then they’ll be very likely, I think, to continue doing it.

And I know a lot of you may feel limited to some sort of small or at least really well defined circle. And so please tune into the Career Prescription Episode 19. I’ll put the link in the show notes. You can also just go to Like all one word, and it’s packed with strategies for going from basically zero to a very robust network, even if it’s in a totally different industry, in an industry in which you don’t know anybody.

And speaking of that, if this is on your mind, you should absolutely check out my webinar series called Industry Insider. I’ll put that in the show notes as well. This is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a webinar series about how to transition into a non clinical career or an industry role for physicians, even if you do not have a foot or even a single toe in the door today.

So I encourage you to take a few minutes, pull out a pen and paper and write down this list of all the allies that you need in your network. Write down the people who are in them. Take a moment to give some thanks and appreciation to the people who are already serving these roles to you. And once you’ve identified the ways in which you need more help, or you need to kind of make your network a little more robust, go looking for people with these things specifically in mind.

And when you approach them you may even want to mention that this is specifically why you’re interested in furthering a relationship with them. Because you really admire their ability to think through personal professional decisions, or you really admire their ability to sort of always know who they are going to be and be that bridge builder. That is often very helpful. People like to know what you want from them, right? And then they will be very often very happy to help.

Please also be sure that you are filling these roles for other people. I think that’s super important. Because again, it’s got to be sort of a reciprocal ecosystem, even if it’s not necessarily a reciprocal person to person relationships, we all have different things that we can bring to the table for each other.

Make your list and let me know how it goes. And if you think I’ve left out an important ally that’s in your network or your ecosystem, by all means. drop me a note or leave me a review and let me know what I’m missing in this episode. I really look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for listening. Bye for now.

Thanks for joining me on this episode of the Career Prescription. Be sure to leave me a review on Apple podcasts or whatever podcast player you’re using to listen today. And definitely send me those questions so I can answer them and give you a shout out on a future episode. Bye for now.


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