Friday, June 12, 2015

Event Recap: Mentorships, Sponsorships, and Spaceships

 I had the pleasure of attending a professional event where the topic was mentorships and sponsorships. While I thought I had heard it all, I left the event excited, energized, and feeling more confident about making deliberate career choices, getting the right kind of guidance, and launching into a more successful career.

Here are a few takeaways from women who are older than me, richer than me, and more senior in their careers:

Mentors advise, but Sponsors act. A mentor is a person who can advise you on the gritty details of your profession, your office politics, and ways to improve your work. A sponsor acts to put you in the best position possible. A sponsor will give you opportunities and fight for you at the table when decisions are being made.

Mentors can help with problems that Sponsors should not see. A sponsor is someone you want to impress. This person is vouching for you. Save the self-doubt, uncertainties, and problem-solving for a mentor who can give you advice to deal with those issues on your own. Your sponsor should only get the highlights.

Don't let assumptions hinder quality Mentorships and Sponsorships. Mentors and sponsors will not always be people who look like you or even people who are in the same area of business as you. Assumptions about the people you can relate to and the people who will look out for you in a professional setting can result in you missing the boat on career-changing opportunities.

Some Key Characteristics of a Good Sponsor:
  1. Someone who in in a position of power and who is well-respected amongst decision makers
  2. Someone who knows the quality of your work and your achievements
  3. Someone with whom you have an ongoing relationship
Start identifying potential mentors and sponsors early in your career.  Waiting until you are up for a promotion is not the time to begin garnering support. By starting early, you can observe carefully and select the right people, showcase your talents, and build a relationship over time.

People of color are frequently under-sponsored in corporate settings. It takes putting yourself out there, learning the field, asking for help, and being persistent about getting the resources you need to excel.

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