If your career needs a boost, you’ve probably asked yourself the question in the title of this post. I know I have. What I’ve found is that choosing between a mentor or a sponsor is by no means mutually exclusive. It just depends on what your goals are!
This image is from Paradigm For Parity, a coalition of business leaders committed to raising the profiles of women across industries. And while I am not addressing the role of a life or career coach in this post, this image is a perfect distillation of the difference between these vital contacts in your career.
The first step in deciding if you want to seek out a mentor and/or a sponsor is to define your immediate goal. Are you concerned about your job prospects and career trajectory at your current employer? Are you concerned about your overall career arc, achievements, and skill development?
Once you have defined your individual need, you can pursue finding a sponsor or a mentor. Achieving your goals requires support. Don’t think you have to go it alone!
A sponsor is an influential leader at your current employer. A sponsor is especially critical for women and minorities. He or she is someone who can play a direct role in your advancement. It’s important to know that sponsorship is transactional. A sponsor can elevate your profile by proposing you for assignments, touting your worth to other company leaders, and including you in critical discussions or decisions. A sponsor reasonably expects something from you in return – your support for his or her priorities within the company.
At the end of the day, cultivating a sponsor is not just about sharing your skills, but building trust and loyalty.
A mentor is a sounding board and adviser, who often becomes a trusted friend. A mentor reacts to your questions and needs regarding aspects of your work life. Your mentor should let you lead the conversation and discuss with you how to navigate office politics, crucial conversations, and everyday workplace challenges. A mentor can be especially vital if you are changing careers, roles, or industries.
A mentor/mentee relationship requires honesty and transparency, a true two-way street.
If you are interested in being mentored, becoming a mentor, or both, I encourage you to join Digital Women of Kansas City’s Women Mentoring Women program. We are putting together a new group of mentors and mentees during Summer 2018. Check out DWKC.org to register!
Allana Pettigrew is a seasoned digital professional, with a career including technology leadership and consulting roles in the financial industry and digital marketing. She is incredibly excited about the promise DWKC holds for professionals in the metro, especially in the areas of mentorship, leadership, and career growth. Collaborating with clients on the definition and execution of a successful digital strategy is Allana’s professional passion.
Allana received her Bachelor’s degree in History, English, and Religious Studies from the University of Kansas, and her MBA from Baker University.