The difference between mentoring and sponsorship is the level of active involvement in helping you with your career. Mentors offer advice and guidance that help you to grow in your career, in your field and within your company. Sponsors speak up for you on your behalf in your absence, introduce you to people who might be able to help you (and vice versa!), and put you on the radar screens of people who can help further your career.
Throughout my career multiple mentors and sponsors took part in my continuous development and growth, both males and females. Each of them brought in unique experiences that added to my understanding of how to play the game of business.
They were all willing to share their wisdom, knowledge, skills and expertise and they supported me when I needed a new approach or new level of thought. They helped me to build my self-confidence and leadership at moments when I felt that I did not have the right skills for a particular role or situation and most importantly: they all wanted me to be successful.
We can all use someone to help us navigate the road ahead, that is why I strongly advice you – as you build relationships both in your workplace and external network – to look for potential men and/or women who can provide you with valuable feedback, advice, and open doors for you to new opportunities to further your career.
Take time to think about whom you would like to have as a mentor since the choice of person has a big impact on the relationship and ultimately your success. The person needs to be willing to share knowledge, be open and honest with you and be trustworthy. You need to feel safe to share personally sensitive information with him/her.
Choose someone who is more experienced in your field, someone who you respect professionally, find inspiring and look forward to spending time with. He/she should energize you.
A good mentor or sponsor is someone with whom you already have a relationship and to whom you have already demonstrated your potential. They need to like and believe in you otherwise they will not make an ongoing commitment to invest time and effort in you.
Once you have approached your mentor and got an initial agreement from him/her, it is important to do some contracting to establish the nature of your relationship and the specifics around how you will work together. You need to have an open dialogue to establish what will work for both of you.
Go for it!
“Every great athlete, artist and aspiring being has a great team to help them flourish and succeed – personally and professionally. Even the so-called ‘solo star’ has a strong supporting cast helping them shine, thrive and take flight.” ― Rasheed Ogunlaru
The senior leaders, mentors and sponsors who supported me during my career were crucial!
Without this “great team” I would not be where I am today!
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