Still not obtaining that coveted job, even though you’ve been doing the right prep work? Maybe it’s time to find internal sponsors or coaches. These are company insiders who can provide tips about the employer and potential positions, and serve as your personal advocates or references within the company.

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Still not getting that coveted job, even though you’ve been doing the right prep work? Maybe it’s time to find internal sponsors or coaches. These are company insiders who can provide tips about the employer and potential positions. They can also serve as your personal advocates or references as you compete for jobs within the company.

What’s the difference?

An internal sponsor is someone who works at the company who can provide background information and answer your questions. He or she will also vouch for you and your abilities and will speak with the hiring manager and/or the HR recruiter on your behalf.

An internal coach can guide you through the hiring process but might not know you well enough to agree to recommend you, or might not know the hiring manager well enough to go speak to that person about you.

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Both should understand the company culture and know the key players (and, ideally, the hiring manager). If you know any insiders and they’re familiar with your work background, education and skills, great! See if they’d be willing to act as your sponsor or coach.

How do I find one?

If you don’t know anyone at your target company, spread the word through your existing network that you’re looking for someone who works there. If no one knows anyone there, you might need to expand your network by researching local business associations or attending local Chamber of Commerce events. Create a list of all the networking functions you can attend to search for someone who works at the company.

A client of mine attended a local women’s association networking event in Seattle and ran into a friend from high school. Her friend introduced her to someone who happened to have a sister who worked at my client’s target company. They exchanged business cards, and the next day my client emailed the woman. Not only did she respond that day, but she also copied the woman’s sister and included her contact information. My client called the sister, and they arranged to meet for coffee.

OK, I have one; what now?

Once you’ve found an internal sponsor or coach, create a list of questions to discuss. These may include: What is the company culture like? What do you know about the hiring manager and the department where this open position resides? What do you recommend that I do to prepare myself for the job interview?

Whether or not you get the job, be sure to thank your internal sponsors and coaches for their help. Even if things didn’t work out for this job, they still can help you in the future. Treat them kindly and respectfully, and you just might gain a career advocate.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at lquast@careerwomaninc.com.