It’s well-known that having a mentor on your team can
help you tremendously by guiding you through career landmines and helping you
map out a plan for success.
But let’s say you’ve got a great mentor who’s helped
you make great strides in your career – from them you’ve learned new skills, received
great advice when recovering from missteps, and got the coaching you needed to
push through to achieve your goals.
You’re now looking to go a little deeper within your
industry or organization and while you still need your mentor, you’re looking
to add someone to your team who can help you get to that next level.
Enter the sponsor.
On the surface, the roles of mentor and sponsor appear
to be similar (see what role mentors play in your career in “What
You Should Know About Mentors”). But whereas a mentor helps you overcome
workplace challenges and offers their background as a blueprint for navigating
your career, a sponsor is someone who goes a bit further.
Here’s the difference
between mentors and sponsors:
Characteristics of a Sponsor
1. Serves in a high-level
position of power or influence within your workplace or industry. This person
is not a novice or on the same level as you. Usually, they are in a senior
position (think SVP or even CEO) where they are able to make or give significant
input about important matters like company staffing and strategic direction. In
short, they carry a lot of weight and can effect change.
2. Serves as an advocate
or a voice for you. Sponsors help you
advance in the workplace by vouching for you and your work to persons who are
on their level. So when it’s time to staff highly visible projects or promote someone
to the senior level, they can add your name to the pool and offer insight on why you’d be the best fit for the job.
3. Plays a critical
role in the strategic planning and execution of your career. Whereas a mentor
can help you plot your career advancement, sponsors know the power players whose
time and attention you’re trying to attract. They are in on the high-profile
assignments and projects that are sure tickets to the corner office. Mentors
help you play connect the dots; sponsors are the dots.
Homies, both mentors and sponsors can help you achieve
your career goals but each has a different purpose. Mentors help you develop
your talent, plan your moves, and coach you through triumphs and setbacks. Sponsors
are highly-influential people who recognize your talent and help you realize
your career goals by serving as your ally and advocating for you to their
peers. Having both on your team can make the difference between a mediocre
career and one that goes beyond your wildest dreams.
Until next time, Hustle Hard Homies!