Why you need a Sponsor just as much as you need a Mentor

After attending a PR conference recently I shared thoughts on the subject of sponsorship (not linked to financial sponsorship) on twitter following on from some of the advice from speakers on finding sponsors and mentors and understanding the distinction between sponsorship and mentoring.  I have known about sponsorship for as long as I have known about mentoring however I admit I have directed people to seek out mentors more often than I have directed them to seek sponsors. This could be an unconscious habit which is reinforced by social conditioning and highlights the fact that men often seek sponsorship more frequently than women.  “Women have more than enough mentors but are only half as likely as their male peers to have a sponsor. Consequently, they miss out on the measurable impact of the sponsor effect” The Harvard Business Review – 2011. Sponsorship has a direct impact on your business/career trajectory and will help you proactively navigate through your professional life. I know this because I have had “sponsors” in my business life and yet I suppose it is because I didn’t necessarily ask for them that I tend to direct people to mentoring when in fact you can and should be asking for sponsors in your career or even as a business owner.  Here is the thread that inspired this piece:

You need a sponsor to be your representative in spaces and places in which you are not present. A sponsor can back you for an opportunity, a contract, a pay rise, a promotion and more. They are your voice when you are not in the room. This is particularly important for underrepresented groups, I for one would love to see more Black women getting sponsors. The chances are that your sponsor probably won’t look like you because we all know what certain sectors are like in terms of leadership diversity but find a genuine ally and go for it. In an industry like PR for example a sponsor can really help to close the gap in terms of inclusion. In terms of finding a sponsor, you have to research and identify a sponsor after doing the work but it is a powerful way to get ahead, hard work only gets us so far. You can identify a sponsor within your business or professional network both online and offline, the closer they are in terms of “following” your journey the better – a relative stranger will not be useful in this instance. You can of course turn a stranger into a strong connection but you have to be ready to do the work of building a relationship and remember that you have to be responsible, for the most part, for maintaining a your sponsorship relationship. Carla Harris, who is one of my business wisdom favourites does an excellent job of highlighting the differences between a sponsor and a mentor are in this video:


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