You’ve almost certainly heard of the importance of having people in your field to advance your career and broaden your prospects. However, differentiating the terms can get confusing. Here’s the difference between a mentor and a sponsor and how to find professional support.
As you research the specifics of a mentor versus a sponsor, you’ll likely come across content on career coaches as well. Here is a breakdown of sponsors, mentors and coaches.
Sponsorship involves a situation where a well-connected, well-respected, top-level businessman uses his reputation and connections to help someone who does not yet have such influence. A sponsor is personally involved in your professional success and will use their network to provide you with opportunities that you could not obtain on your own.
On the other hand, a mentor is a person in any position with desirable experience and guidance for others. Mentoring relationships are often long-term and can last for years.
Finally, a coach is someone who provides short-term, hands-on training to improve specific skills. For example, a person may seek out a business coach to prepare for an intensive interview or to be better equipped for meetings with potential investors.
Let’s take a closer look at some other specifics regarding the differences between Mentor and Sponsor.
1. Career Vision Abilities
According to a Stanford report, a mentor can help someone create a vision for their career, but a sponsor has the resources to directly help them achieve that vision. For example, a sponsor may introduce someone to a high-level person in their network with a potential job opportunity.
2. Network Access
Another important distinction is whether a sponsor gives a person access to their existing network or offers to create new relationships for them. However, the facilitation of a mentor’s network is less direct.
Instead of the mentor using their direct influence to help a mentee build their network, they will focus on empowerment. The mentor can share tips on how they networked with others early in their career or offer strategies for feeling more confident when meeting new people.
3. The nature of information sharing
You’ve probably wished someone told you all the unwritten rules of corporate culture or a particular industry that only become apparent through experience. A mentor can do this for you by passively sharing all the secrets they’ve learned over the years.
The role of a sponsor is more direct. They model the ideal behavior for sponsored people and can create specific opportunities that accelerate advancement. A sponsor can arrange for you to accompany them on a three-week trip to Europe to present a new product. You could have seen many unwritten rules firsthand and much earlier than you otherwise would.
Some people can explain why you need a sponsor and not a mentor. However, it is essential to realize that both can be equally valuable to you for different reasons. Additionally, there are intersections between these definitions, as you will see in the example below which relates to sponsorship versus mentoring for diversity.
Esko professional services manager Vanessa Lin spoke about her experiences when a vice president of the company’s professional services division took her under his wing. “It was another person of color who saw me, saw my talent and wanted to help put me in the spotlight. Of course, it was up to me to show up and deliver the goods, but having a lawyer like that, a real mentor, really made a difference,” Lin said.
Lin refers to this person as a mentor, but it seems he also took a more active role in making sure others noticed his talent. Others familiar with both definitions, such as EnPointe CEO Chantal Brine, say that the results achieved by the person supported are particularly vital in a sponsorship. This is because a sponsored person will likely feel the consequences of their successes or failures. Therefore, having a sponsor might help you feel more responsible for your actions.
Another thing to consider is that a sponsorship often occurs in a co-working environment. This is not necessarily the case with mentor and mentee relationships. Sometimes these parties may be in the same field but not working in the same organization.
These accolades should help you realize that there will almost certainly be times in your career when you can benefit from both sponsors and mentors. It all depends on your goals at any given time.
Perhaps you are now at the point where you are ready to find professional support. One possible way to achieve this is to use a dedicated mentoring platform. It can help you find a wider assortment of options that may be available locally. However, these services should complement in-person networking events rather than replace them.
Also consider how mentorship and sponsorship fits into your respective industry. For example, the technology sector is known to be exceptionally difficult to break into for women and other minority groups. However, initiatives like the mentorship program offered by Leaders of Tech could spur positive change.
Once you’ve found a mentor or sponsor, take the time to have in-depth discussions about what each party can or should offer. This way, everyone will have clear expectations from the start. That said, if you’re looking for a mentor to help you achieve your next goal, here are the top platforms you can use to find a mentor.
Whether you’re looking for mentorship, sponsorship, or both, make sure you have a clear idea of where you want your career to go. It’s okay that you haven’t drawn the full vision yet.
However, sponsors and mentors want the people they support to be highly motivated and motivated. Staying focused on what you hope to accomplish and working hard to achieve those goals can help you attract the attention of people who can help you achieve more.
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