Whether at work or in your personal life, you may face problems that continue to haunt you until you find solutions. Solving problems on your own may build character and allow you to hone crisis management skills, but having a mentor or sponsor by your side could help you navigate your life and career in a supportive and encouraging environment. You can always seek help from your friends and family who are the ones you usually go to when there is a problem. However, friends or family may not be the best people to look to in regards to career advice. They might not have a comprehensive understanding of your job or your workplace relationships. So, even though they mean well, their advice may not actually be beneficial to your career. So, how do you know if you should be looking for a mentor, a sponsor, or both? Let’s start off by identifying the differences between mentors and sponsors.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MENTORS AND SPONSORS
Mentors generally are people who work in the same field as you or have similar jobs as you. They can provide guidance for your career, but can even advise you on personal questions and challenges that you may encounter. By connecting closely with your mentor, you will be able to receive motivation and emotional support to advance your career, develop a strong network, and identify your available resources.
Meanwhile, sponsors refer to people who are in a superior position who can use their influence and connections to advocate for you, so that you will be able to understand your career vision, increase your visibility, and make new professional relationships.
BENEFITS OF MENTORSHIP OR A SPONSORSHIP
According to Sage journals, 97% of professionals with a mentor admit that they see value in the mentorship. In this type of business relationship, a trusted mentor challenges and inspires you to gain clarity on issues, seek solutions, and expand your horizons in a new journey, whether in professional or personal life. Besides creating opportunities for you to develop problem solving skills, the mentor can offer insights and experience for setting goals in order to advance your career. He/she/they will give you guidance and direction about options for you to take to the next level of your career based on your devotion and expectations. As you grow as a professional with the support and encouragement of your mentor, you will eventually evolve from a good follower with limited experience to a strong leader who possesses extensive knowledge in your field and has great influence on others.
While a mentor equips you with skills, a sponsor lends you a ladder of his/her resources and connections that allows you to elevate onto a higher level of your career. In a sponsorship, a reliable sponsor puts his/her/their reputation on the line and advocates for you so your chances to get the promotion you’ve wanted are much higher. Besides promotions, the sponsor can give you access to an active network so you will be able to make connections and expand your own network. On top of that, you can use your sponsor’s resources and platform as a medium for increasing your exposure.
HOW TO FIND A MENTOR OR A SPONSOR
Even though both mentorship and sponsorship help you take a big step forward in your career, the way to find a mentor is quite different from that of finding a sponsor. For those who plan to initiate a mentorship, your first step should be to make a list of what you are trying to accomplish through this relationship, which can help you narrow down the candidate pool. A mentor doesn’t necessarily need to be your manager or your boss. A coworker could become your mentor. Secondly, after making your final choice, socialize with them before you ask them to be your mentor. Talk with them over coffee, schedule a lunch meeting or ask for their opinions on a work project. Any way to connect and get to know them is recommended. If you find that their advice valuable, pick the right time to ask them if it is something that they would be interested in.
For those of you who are seeking a sponsor, you will need to identify several candidates who would be your ideal sponsor by asking yourself if he/she/they have the capabilities and are willing to advocate for you. In order to increase the odds of them agreeing to be your sponsor, you will have to make them feel that you are worth advocating for. In other words, you need to show them your work performance and competency so that they can see your potential and have faith in you.
Finding your mentor/sponsor is only the beginning. Just like any other relationship, it requires mutual efforts to maintain and improve the relationship. A healthy and positive relationship with your mentor/sponsor will give you a clear vision of your future and your life.