Mentors and Sponsors: Why These Relationships Matter

Do you have a mentor? What about a sponsor? Here’s a simple way to remember what sets these two relationships apart: A mentor is someone who talks with you face-to-face — you’re in the room together. A sponsor talks about you to other people, advocating for you when you’re not in the room.

The Benefits of Mentorship

A mentor advises you. They draw from their own professional experience to coach you, provide feedback, and serve as a role model. They may be able to connect you with others in their network. Mentoring relationships are often mutually beneficial — your mentor may find your perspective just as valuable as you find theirs. Plus, as a mentor learns how to coach, advise, and develop others, they’re also strengthening their own leadership skills. 

The Benefits of Sponsorship

A sponsor influences others. They champion you, amplify your brand, and strategically navigate to create opportunities for you. A sponsor is willing to invest in your advancement and success. They spend their social capital, including their reputation and relationships, on your behalf.

Rosalind Chow, associate professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon University, emphasized the value of sponsorship in a Harvard Business Review article called “Don’t Just Mentor Women and People of Color. Sponsor Them.”  She noted, “The relationship at the heart of sponsorship is not between protégés and sponsors, as is often thought, but between sponsors and an audience — the people they mean to sway to the side of their protégés.” 

How to Find Mentors and Sponsors

A recent Leadership Coach webinar explored strategies for incorporating these relationships into your support system. During the peer coaching segment, attendees swapped tips for finding mentors and sponsors. A few of the recommendations that came up:

  • Build more than one mentoring relationship at a time.  Different mentors will have different skills and perspectives to offer.
  • Consider looking for mentors and sponsors outside of your company. To build relationships that aren’t tied to your current job, connect with other people in your industry through professional organizations. 
  • Think about what you have to offer as a mentor or sponsor. No matter where you are in your career, you have knowledge and connections that could benefit others who aren’t as far along. 

Download our 40 Potential Mentors & Sponsors in 4 Minutes worksheet to get started finding your next mentors and sponsors. 


Take Charge of Your Future

For more leadership guidance, consider participating in the Rise Leadership Program. This three-month virtual program is dedicated to helping mid-career women move their careers forward by focusing on their own leadership strengths. Rise is built on the premise that leadership starts from within. Learn from leadership experts and executive coaches as you develop an authentic leadership style that suits your skills and personality. Interested in being part of our next cohort? Apply now!

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