The Difference between a Mentor and a Sponsor
Having a mentor or a sponsor at your organization can greatly help your career. In fact, it is often crucial for successful career development. But what is the difference between a mentor and a sponsor?
A mentor is a person who can help you understand and navigate your organization. He or she can explain the unwritten rules and informal culture that may exist. A mentor can also help you recognize your strengths, areas of development and assist you in determining your career goals. A mentor is especially impactful for those who are just starting out in their careers or for employees who are new to an organization. Mentors offer advice and guidance and support you in achieving your desired career goals. Ideally they are removed from your day-to-day functions and don’t provide coaching on your job tasks. Rather, they use their experience to help guide you and to support your development.
A sponsor is someone who often works in a management role or another influential role in your organization. This person openly advocates on behalf of the employee he or she is sponsoring. A sponsor helps you connect to career opportunities, often by recommending you for important assignments or helping you build relationships with other important people. A sponsor takes a vested interest in your career growth and recommends his or her protégé for promotions and other beneficial employment opportunities.
How do you Find a Sponsor?
Sponsorship is a two-way street. The sponsor makes his or her protégé look good by accentuating the protégé’s strengths to those in positions of power and by giving the protégé opportunities to tackle high-profile projects and assignments. In turn, the protégé helps the sponsor look good by excelling at these projects and by impressing other members of the senior management team. This allows the sponsor to increase his or her own profile by being recognized as a leader who can identify talent within the organization.
In order to find a sponsor, it’s important to be high performing in your role, tackle big challenges and make sure that those in senior positions recognize your accomplishments. You must stand out from your peers in order to attract the attention of a sponsor. One way to do this is to take on projects and initiatives that are above and beyond your role, especially difficult assignments that others in the organization typically avoid. Doing so will show senior leaders that you are committed and ambitious.
You will also need to make sure that any potential sponsor knows about your successes. Keep him or her informed of your accomplishments. To do this, you will need to make sure that you are keeping track of your own achievements and successes and communicating them in a professional way. When you solve a problem or complete a challenging assignment, make sure that you document this accomplishment. It’s also important to connect these achievements with business goals in order to show how you add value to the organization. Not only will doing so help you impress a sponsor, who may be more likely to advocate on your behalf, but it will also raise your self-confidence. This will make you a higher performer, thus making you much more likely to receive a promotion when the time comes and more likely to attract a sponsor.