We have long believed that the secret to success has been “who you know”, and we have been encouraged to “fake it until we make it.” While there may be a level of truth to the age old adage, success in today’s work environment requires a toolkit consisting of competency and performance, supported by a network of mentors, coaches and sponsors.

Recently, while attending a dinner party, the conversation veered towards our profession. One guest expressed her frustration with the lack of her upward mobility. She shared that she had been hired into the company along with another person of the same gender, who possessed the same education and skills that she had to do the exact same job. Her colleague was enjoying a flourishing career, having received a number of promotions, while her career remained flat. She knew that she was just as capable as her colleague and believed that it was a case of “who you know.” She then asked me if she should “get” a sponsor.

I am often asked this question – should I get a sponsor, primarily because there is confusion between the terms, coach, mentor and sponsor and the role each has in your professional development. There are distinct differences in the support provided.

  1. A mentor is someone you choose that agrees to “talk with you” and serve as a trusted advisor for career advice. A mentor is a valuable resource to assist you in your exploration, development and implementation of your career strategy.
  2. A coach is someone you hire and engage to “assist you” in identifying and attaining specific goals. During the coaching engagement you receive tools, perspective and structure to accomplish your goals; through the accountability process. The coaching engagement is focused on acquiring or enhancing skills and or making behavioral shifts.
  3. A sponsor chooses you! A sponsor selects you based on your demonstrated competencies, your performance, your abilities and your potential.
  4. A sponsor “talks about you”. A sponsor taps you for developmental opportunities, is your advocate for promotions, and your champion for challenging assignments. A sponsor is a person that can move your career from discussions to progression. Sponsors are persons with seniority, influence and power which can achieve results.

I encourage you to not ask the question “should I get a sponsor? instead ask “how do I attract a sponsor”

Attracting a sponsor requires that you do the following:

  • Demonstrate your Competence
  • Be a strong performer and make significant contributions
  • Build and Manage your reputation
  • Develop and Communicate your Career Strategy

Position yourself to be “tapped for professional success”, attract a sponsor. To learn more about mentoring, coaching and sponsorship, sign up for a free consultation @dblatimorepsg.coachesconsole.com