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  • Writer's pictureBetsy Kent


We have all heard the advice. In order to get ahead you should try to find mentors to help you navigate your organization, your industry and your career.

Of course mentors can be extremely helpful. They tell us:

  • who to befriend,

  • who to learn from,

  • what to learn,

  • which companies and industries are full of opportunity.

They might even help us:

  • prepare for interviews, meetings or presentations,

  • set us up with networking conversations, and

  • stay on a path that will lead to our goals.

But this is not enough! Mentors are advisors - their main objective is to give us advice. They are only half of the equation in the formula for success.

If we lived in an equitable and fair, merit based society, then great performance alone, which can be achieved by heeding the advice of our mentors, would make our progression to our goals inevitable.

Unfortunately, we all can admit, this is not the case. Advice is not enough. Mentors, no matter how much time they give us or how great their advice is, will not alone ensure success.

So what is a person to do?

We all need to find a Sponsor. This is not the same as a mentor, but is in addition to one.

A Sponsor is your ambassador, who goes before you and sets the stage with the powers that be to engage with you and, ultimately, to choose you.

A Sponsor

  • advocates for you to the decision makers,

  • gets you in the door when no one would answer you alone knocking, and

  • gets you in the room where it happens! (Sorry - I couldn’t resist a good Hamilton reference.)

Once you identify someone who has the gravitas to successfully advocate for you in the venue in which you want to progress, you need to give them reason to do so.

Most of us make the mistake of asking the Sponsor for advice about how to be the person that they can advocate for. While sometimes this mixed role of mentor/sponsor can work, ideally, we want to show the Sponsor that we are ready for the task they are advocating for us.

Here are some tips to persuade the Sponsor to, well, sponsor you:

  • Tell them what you want! This is something so many of us forget to do. Sponsors are not mind readers. Tell them:

    • which job/promotion you want,

    • which project you want to be part of,

    • who you want to work with, or

    • which meetings you want to attend.

  • Advocate for yourself. Remember - not mind readers and not necessarily paying attention to your work. Let them know:

    • what your achievements are,

    • why you are ready to do whatever you are asking for, and

    • what value you can add to the organization if you were in that position/meeting.

  • Let them know how it will help them. While some sponsors are quite generous, others want to know what is in it for them. Explain how:

    • you doing a great job will reflect well on them,

    • how whatever you do will add value to what their goals are,

    • how you might be able to reciprocate for them in the future,

    • how much their influence and support means to you - this appeals even to the egos of the most generous sponsor who is not looking for a quid pro quo.

The real formula for success is to find Mentors to give you advice in order to evolve so that you are the person that the Sponsor will want to advocate for.

So take my advice and find someone to speak on your behalf.

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