I was recently chatting with a colleague who needed to help an employee with some career growth roadblocks – I suggested she needed a sponsor versus simply a coach or a mentor. I was met with a bit of a confused look and immediately realized that the term “career sponsor” isn’t as well-known as a mentor and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to share with my followers not only the difference but the incredible power and advantages of such a role!
I can honestly say that during my vast career I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a myriad of coaches, sponsors, and mentors guide me. Each one served a specific purpose, and all were instrumental in my success. And yes, coaches need coaches, mentors need mentors and sometimes even sponsors need sponsors. It’s the wonderful circle of business life!
The biggest difference between Mentorship and Sponsorship is the dynamic of the person of influence or authority and what he/she brings to the table. The Mentor/Mentee relationship is typically defined by a more experienced or knowledgeable person in a specific area, industry, topic, or even a location. The Mentor helps the Mentee by guiding them and sharing experience, advice, and supporting them. The Mentor often helps the Mentee with specific challenges they are up against and can even help with career goals by tapping into their network to make introductions.
On the flip side, a Sponsor is quite different. A Sponsor is identified as someone who can actually create an opportunity for you that you otherwise could not – regardless of your abilities or network. Your sponsor will have vastly more experience than you and has the unique ability to nominate you for boards, projects, or contracts. They will help you strategize and make intentional vital introductions that are more than an email or a LinkedIn invite.
Sponsors might talk about you to senior members of your work environment, potential employers, or nominate you for projects, boards, or contracts. Sponsors help you to navigate your career advancement in a different way, strategizing stretch assignments, key introductions, and vertical moves. This will look different if your sponsor is in the same organization as you, or if they are outside of your organization or industry.
The Blurred Lines
Unlike the mentor/mentee relationship – Sponsors consider their wards Protegees and often have a personal investment and gain in their Protegee’s career path, specifically when they work within the same organization.
Depending on your personal situation, you may need both. You may find an individual who is a perfect Sponsor that can bring you into the inner circle but doesn’t have the skillset or the want to guide you, coach you, and hold your hand through the process. There’s nothing wrong with this scenario – but it’s important to ask the right questions and in turn, have the right expectations.
Not sure where to start, or what’s right for you or someone on your team
No worries, I get this question a lot – the answer is “Let’s hop on a phone call and figure out what your specific needs are.” In the end, it’s all about having a synergistic connection that benefits everyone involved.
Give me a call at (860) 930-1277 or email me and let me know a good time to chat. Be it coaching, mentorship, or sponsorship – there’s a perfect fit out there for you!