Mentor vs Sponsor: Discovering the Advantages and Differences

June 13, 2022

Ninety-seven percent of people who have a mentor vs sponsor believe they are extremely influential and valuable. And sixty-six percent of persons of color stated they were happy with their rate of development with sponsors. It shows that engaging sponsors and mentors will help motivate growth, ideally moving you forward to reach exceptional levels of development.

Mentor vs Sponsor: Discovering the Advantages and Differences

With MentorCruise, you can find highly-vetted mentors and industry experts to help you achieve your career goals. Ask them questions, find out what it’s really like to work in your dream job, or let them walk you through the steps needed to get your career to the next level.

So, what does it look like to have a mentor? And which is better when it comes to your career advancement and access to opportunities and networks - mentors or sponsors? Let’s find out.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • What is mentorship?

  • What is sponsorship?

  • Differences between mentor vs. sponsor

  • Differences between coach vs mentor vs sponsor

What is mentorship?

Mentoring is a tool that businesses and individuals use to help those who are newer in their fields develop the skills and knowledge necessary for successful progression. The goal of mentoring is to connect someone who’s relatively untrained (a “mentee”) with an expert or more-seasoned professional (“a mentor”).

A mentor essentially teaches the mentee by communicating information effectively, but they also help their students make meaningful connections with others who might be able to provide support and wisdom when necessary.

To really benefit from a mentor relationship you need to ask a mentor great questions. Dig deep into the mentors’ experience, and make sure that your questions are clear and relevant.

What does successful mentorship look like?

Mentoring is most effective when you have identified your strengths and weaknesses beforehand. As well, you should have some understanding of where you want to move in your career. The clearer your vision or goal the easier it will be to find the right mentor.

A mentor is someone who has been in your shoes and can help you take the next step in your career. Mentors are often older than their mentees, so they can offer wisdom gained from experience that might not be available otherwise to younger professionals.

They also have strong networks built up over many years and can introduce you to people they know who might be able to help you in your career journey.

Two important facts about mentors you may not know:

  1. Mentoring doesn’t necessarily mean that the mentor must hold a higher title than the mentee.

  2. Communication doesn’t always have to be between the two individuals. In many cases, it can happen within a group setting geared toward teaching through discussions and activities.

What is sponsorship?

Sponsorship is a relationship between two parties, where one party provides resources, access, or financial support to the other.

Essentially, sponsorship is considered an investment in an individual. Sponsors take a bigger risk as they are putting their reputation on the line to back the individual.

A sponsor can also be someone that works within your organization. They are usually in a leadership role and make sure that key decision-makers know who you are when a suitable opportunity for advancement arises.

What does successful sponsorship look like?

Successful sponsorships must be mutually beneficial. You want something from the sponsor, but the sponsor also wants something from you (even if it’s just for you to use some of their products or services).

Many leaders who consider themselves mentors are engaging in sponsor-like behaviors. Senior leaders must invest in building their sponsor capability—the ability to remove barriers and help others succeed—because sponsors exhibit different skills and characteristics than those who don’t sponsor.

Sponsors need to have strong communication and leadership skills, a success-oriented mindset, and the ability to influence and guide projects forward.

What’s the difference between a mentor ‌ vs‌ ‌sponsor?‌ ‌

On the surface, mentoring and sponsorship might seem similar, but they are very different. Mentorship involves giving advice, encouragement, and guidance to someone who is less experienced than you; sponsorship is about giving people access to personal and professional opportunities.

According to a meta-analysis of mentoring literature conducted by The Workplace Gender Equality Agency, mentorship is a relationship that provides psycho-social support for the protégé, while at the same time, sponsorship is an active help in advancing the protege’s career.

Another vital distinction between sponsor and mentor is that a sponsor gives you access to their existing networks or offers to create new connections. However, a mentor’s network facilitation is less direct.

Instead of the mentor using their direct influence to help a mentee build their network, they will focus on self-empowerment. The mentor will share tips on ways that they networked with others in the early stages of their careers and offer strategies for feeling more confident when meeting new people.

At MentorCruise, the emphasis is on moving people towards success. So, if you want to change your career and know exactly what Is needed, then take a look at what others are saying.

Key differences between sponsor vs mentor:

  1. Sponsorship is about getting an opportunity, whereas mentorship is about gaining knowledge and advice.

  2. Mentorship is more focused on providing guidance and support to help someone reach their full potential.

  3. Sponsors help their sponsored individuals by providing visibility and using their platforms to help them build connections.

  4. Mentors share experiences and insights gained through experience with others.

  5. Sponsorship isn’t always about financial support – it can be something as simple as recommending the mentee for an interview at a company where they work or giving a referral or reference to a new job.

Mentor vs Sponsor vs Coach

As you research the various types of mentors and sponsors, you’ll probably read about career coaches - a kind of growth coach. Here’s a quick break-down of what each of them does:

Mentors: A mentor helps direct your career development through advice and guidance. They can provide leadership on how to succeed as an entrepreneur or businessperson by helping you learn from their mistakes, successes, and failures over time.

  • Mentors help guide their mentees through their career paths by sharing their knowledge, providing contacts, and offering advice on how to move forward.

  • Mentors are also able to offer insight into what makes them successful, which can help give you an edge when trying to get ahead in your field.

Sponsors: A sponsor is someone who advocates for you within an organization; they might help with getting you promoted, or help you find work in the first place.

  • Sponsors may also help with networking and giving advice on how best to use their connections.

  • Sponsors are often more focused on helping you get your foot in the door and get you to where they want you to be professionally.

Coaches: A coach is someone who helps you grow personally (and perhaps professionally) by working on specific goals with you over time. They help you set up systems to reach these goals and then give feedback along the way to make sure that you stay on track. Coaches often have training as mental health professionals; therefore, they can offer insight into personal problems as well as professional ones.

The most important distinction between these three types of relationships is their level of professional commitment: mentors are generally unpaid, sponsors get paid when they’re doing their job well, and coaches expect compensation for their services.

Join MentorCruise Today and Find the Perfect Mentor

In this article, you learned that there is a significant link between a sponsor vs mentor. Both play essential roles, however, have clear differences.

A mentor is someone who has already achieved the level of success that you want to achieve. They can give you advice and support. Whereas a sponsor is someone who helps you get the job or opportunity that you need to achieve your goal.

Are you ready to make a career change? Need a mentor to help with goal setting? At MentorCruise, our mentors are trained experts who can help evaluate your situation, and guide you towards that dream job you’ve always wanted.

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71% of Fortune 500 companies can't be wrong – mentorship is crucial to career growth. Our free 'state of mentorship' shows you the facts, stats and studies on this career superpower.

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