Part 2: Do You Need A Sponsor More Than A Mentor Or Coach?

In Part 1 of this series, I discussed mentorship.  This article will focus on sponsorship. A sponsor is a person of power and influence who champions you and intentionally promotes you to decision makers within an organization.  Keywords associated with sponsors are: advocate, power to make a difference, supporter and promoter. Also important to remember is that the sponsor/sponsored relationship is different from the mentor/mentee relationship because it is transactional– both parties must give and get.

“Mentors give you perspective while sponsors give you opportunities.” – Cate Huston

One of the best resources (in my opinion) that outlines the difference between mentors and sponsors is Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s book Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor: The New Way to Fast-Track Your Career. Her book is full of research, stats and data that not only highlights the differences but clearly makes the case as to why you should have a sponsor and how to get one.

Key to the process is knowing that the sponsor/sponsored relationship is one of MUTUAL benefit.  Where a mentor is giving you advice and knowledge and (generally) doesn’t expect anything in return, a sponsor will go out on a huge limb for you when they know that your success will reflect really well on them.

Takeaways from Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s research

  • A sponsor relationship is transactional— women tend to look for sponsors who are just like them and this is not necessarily the best fit.  You should respect, not necessarily like, the person you select as your sponsor.
  • The relationship must be deeply reciprocal:  you need to earn a sponsorship.
  • It is imperative that you show and be intentional about how you will make your sponsor shine.
  • Consider the relationship like a strategic alliancemake the sponsor look good, so that furthering your career actually advances their career.

Hear it in her own words, check out Sylvia’s presentation at Google about this topic here.

How and where can you find sponsors?

  • Network at places where you will rub elbows with influential people.
  • Join non profit/philanthropic organizations.
  • Be intentional about building rapport. You know the adage: people do business with people they know, they like and they trust. The same is true with sponsors.
  • Consider converting a mentor into a sponsor:  mentorship allows the person to get to know you. Once you have taken their advice and advanced you can approach a mentor and ask them to sponsor you.  As outlined above, the sponsor role is more public and proactive. Don’t forget to outline and demonstrate what you bring to the table that will make it worth their while to sponsor you.

“A sponsor is someone who will use his or her internal political and social capital to move your career forward within an organization. Behind closed doors, he or she will argue your case.” Jo Miller {Pin the article for later}

Remember that you are the one who has to take the first step.

Who do you know that can sponsor your career or your business? What can you do to get noticed by them?  Better yet, how can you help them??

I’d love to know your thoughts… How can you turn this insight into action now? Dive into the comments and let me know.

BTW, did you miss Part 1 about mentors? Read it here. Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series that focuses on whether you need a coach.


G. Nancy Allen is an international speaker, coach, consultant and expert on women’s business issues. Nancy has over 30 years of experience helping small business owners at all stages of growth. As President and CEO of WBDC Florida/Her Company Incorporated, Nancy manages and leads an incredible team of staff, sponsors, partners and women business leaders who are dedicated to certifying, connecting and championing women in business. Nancy has been recognized for her work on behalf of women in business through numerous prestigious awards: -Nancy was recently honored by the International Career and Business Alliance (ICABA) as one of South Florida’s 100 most accomplished Caribbean Americans. She is especially proud of this award because it highlights her heritage as well as her professional accomplishments. -Nancy is the recipient of the World Women Leadership Achievement Award from the World Women Leadership Congress -Nancy is also the proud recipient of the Association Marketing Award from Women in ECommerce. -Most recently Nancy was named Honorary Ambassador of Cascais, Portugal by the Ambassador’s Club of the Industry Sector of Cascais and the Estoril Coast. Nancy’s personal motto is Connections, Creativity and Courage in all endeavors. She holds a Master’s Degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS, 1982). She was born in Haiti and raised in South Florida. Nancy is bi-lingual in English and French and is fluent in Spanish and Creole.