THE BLOG
09/10/2014 03:51 pm ET Updated Nov 10, 2014

Refresh Your Career

Have you felt stuck in the summer doldrums? Has the holding pattern of the slower days of July and August made you re-think the shape and speed of your career? As work ramps up in Sept. and Oct., what can you do to latch on to the momentum? How can you breathe new life into your career and revive your excitement?

The French call it "la rentrée" -- when the summer holidays are over and it's to return to your regular life, refreshed and reinvigorated. It's also a good time to refresh and reinvigorate your career.

These five strategic steps will help you rev up your career in the coming months:

• Assess your sponsorship status. You can't succeed on your own. You need a helping hand, someone to show you the ropes, decipher the unwritten codes of conduct, and guide you through the corporate jungle. As I explain in my book, Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor, sponsors differ from mentors because they don't just advise, they advocate: They open the door to career-changing opportunities by making important introductions to senior leaders, expanding the perception of what you can offer the organization, and offering powerful backing to help you soar and protection when you stumble.

• Target the right sponsors. Look beyond your immediate circle of mentors and managers. While you should, of course, impress your boss -- who can be a valuable connection to potential sponsors -- seek out someone with real power to change your career. Would-be sponsors in large organizations are ideally two levels above you with line of sight to your role; in smaller firms, they're either the founder or president or are part of his/her inner circle. Target potential sponsors who can turbocharge your career through high-level contacts they can introduce you to, the stretch assignments that will advance your career, and their broad perspective when they give critical feedback.

• Prove you're a protégé with potential. To make yourself sponsor-worthy, you must come through on two obvious fronts: performance and loyalty. That means delivering -- big time: hitting those targets and deadlines, executing brilliantly on assignments, and producing outstanding bottom-line results. All those accomplishments benefit your would-be sponsors -- which makes them want you to be on their team. At the same time, demonstrate that you're dedicated to the shared mission of helping the firm and your sponsor achieve his/her goals.

• Build your personal brand. You'll need to do something or be someone who can extend a sponsor's reach and influence by adding distinct value. That means differentiating yourself from your peers. Everyone has a "special-something" to leverage, whether it's insights afforded by your gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, or cultural background; specialized expertise -- in technology, say, or social media -- that you can use to fill gaps in your sponsor's experience; or the skills that make you "a complete package" and that go-to person. Leverage those attributes and show how they can boost both your and your sponsor's ability to get things done.

• Show you're leadership material. Sponsors don't just want to assemble a group of acolytes; they want to nurture future leaders who can further their agenda and burnish their legacy. To ensure that others perceive you as someone who's going places, you need to exude that heady combination of confidence, poise, and authenticity called "executive presence." As I explain in my book, Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success, EP depends on three attributes: your appearance, your ability to command a room, and your gravitas, a depth of experience and assurance that goes beyond what a title confers. Nurture those attributes and soon enough perception will become reality.

Commit to working on these five elements as you rev up after the summer, and your career will be sure to regain speed, too.