Forget a mentor, find a sponsor


Who is pulling for you? Who has got your back? Who is putting your hat in the ring?

This article is inspired by a book I am reading “forget a mentor, find a sponsor”. It is written by Sylvia Ann Hewlett. Her goal is to help forge relationships that have the power to take readers to their destination (career and business wise).

I just started reading this book yesterday and I have already started taking steps to finding sponsors (I realised I already had 2 sponsors) and drawing a road map for my career. I will be sharing a bit on what I have learnt so far. I am recommending this book because i believe indeed it will be a new way to fast track your career.
There are different kinds of relationships but the focus here is on career/business relationships.

Who is a mentor?

Someone who takes an interest in counselling you because they like you, or because you remind them of themselves. A person who gives valuable advice, builds self esteem, and provides an indispensable sounding board when you are unsure about next steps. But they are not your ticket to the top.

Who is a sponsor?

Someone who takes an interest in you and your career, but not out of altruism or like-mindness, goes out on a limb on your behalf, advocates for your next promotion and provides air cover. A sponsor gives advice and guidance. They give serious traction.

Who is a Protégé? (You)

Protégés in one word deliver. Someone who delivers support in exceptional ways, brings a distinct personal brand/unique set of skill, is trustworthy/loyal and can be counted on. Star performers are likely to attract sponsors but loyal performers are likely to keep them.

Mentors versus Sponsors

  • Mentors give. Sponsors invest.
  • Mentors do not necessarily need you. Sponsors do. They need your support and skill.
  • Mentors are experienced people willing to help and support you. Sponsors are senior people who believe in your potential and are willing to take a bet on you.
  • Mentors build your confidence and provide a sounding board. Sponsors advocate for your next promotion.
  • Mentors offer empathy and a shoulder to cry on. Sponsors encourage you to take risks and they have your back.
  • Mentors expect very little in return. Sponsors expect a great deal from you (stellar performance and loyalty).

Sponsorship is the mechanism by which people of vision attain their goals. Up until now, I only regarded mentors as important. This book has made me understand the need for both and also that sponsors come through on much more important fronts. The alliance is greater that the individual parts.

Mentors may pick you but you pick your sponsors by committing yourself to their best interests. You will get back what you put in.

If you are on a slow road to nowhere, consider changing your strategy. 

Forget a mentor. Find a sponsor.

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Articles, Books, Life Lessons

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