When Mentorship Isn’t Enough

I value mentorship highly. It has illuminated my path forward professionally in more ways than I probably have capability to notice or time to enumerate. Mentors offer insights and ask/answer questions that help you navigate the road forward professionally (and at times personally).

Conversations with mentors can broach a variety of topics. Here are a few examples:

  • Am I being sensible in my choice not to accept “x” as a condition of employment?
  • What skills should I focus on developing to add value to myself in the marketplace?
  • How do I nicely tell the office bully to bug off?
  • What conferences or professional organizations should I join? How do I maximize membership benefits?

A mentoring relationship can last a few months or many years. The choice is really a mutual one.

However, mentorship often teaches the who, what, when, and the why but, sponsorship is truly the “how” for many of us. How do you advance in your current organization – sponsorship. How do you land that next job – sponsorship. How do you get that speaking opportunity nobody would have put my name in the hat for – sponsorship.

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Sponsorship is the decision for mentors to invest in your growth at the next level by leveraging their own reputation through deliberate advocacy for your ability to take the next challenge. If possible, they will even coach you through the transition, empowering your success.

When you lack sponsorship it can leave you wondering if your next move will ever happen. You can be brilliant and well-qualified but, most meaningful and worthwhile opportunities in my experience have come via my mentors turned sponsors.

For example, one of my sponsors placed an internship application in my hands in college and told me to apply – she has a friend who will be looking for my application. Some of my greatest lessons to date about character and maintaining professionalism in the face of the best laid plans going up in flames came from my work with her.

Another mentor turned sponsor knew a few people at the company I was interviewing with and she called three people to tell them about how amazing I am prior to the interview – I got that job.

Still, others on good faith have recommended me for speaking opportunities that may have not seemed like my lane because they believed in me.

As a student of excellent mentors and sponsors, I continue seeking opportunities to be a positive influence in the lives and careers of people around me.

Do you have the ability to act as a sponsor for one of your mentees? Have you shown appreciation for your sponsors? There is nothing stopping you.

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