Mentorship or Sponsorship: The Great Debate

April 13th, 2017 | by Will Baggett
Mentorship or Sponsorship: The Great Debate

In a previous post, we explored the value of mutually beneficial relationships as it relates to exchanging jerseys with career champions.

Along these same lines, we now take a deeper dive into this concept as we break down the difference between mentorship and sponsorship. Often used interchangeably, each of these practices has significant value, yet they are distinct in nature.

For up and coming administrators, this article will help you identify whether you are being mentored or sponsored. Similarly, for those charged with guiding the next generation of leaders, you will better understand how to allocate your time and resources so as to preserve the integrity of your voucher, personal brand, and industry relationships.

“Mentor” has evolved to become synonymous with trusted advisor, friend, and counselor. Mentoring may be regarded as the cornerstone of human development and involves the selfless investment of time, energy, and resources to positively impact the lives of others.

Furthermore, mentors are sounding boards who can weigh in on work-life balance, disputes with colleagues, etc. In essence, they often take on the role of career therapist among other offerings.

Swapping Jerseys

As important as the former benefits are, mentorship is but a stepping stone to sponsorship. Suggesting that, if mentorship is the appetizer, then sponsorship is the unquestioned entrée—the meat and potatoes if you will. Administrators turn to sponsors to build on their mentoring relationships so they can reach and ultimately shatter the glass ceiling.

Ralph Waldo Emerson is credited with saying, “Be an opener of doors for such as come after you.” Taking it a step further, it’s one thing for someone to open a door for you, but it’s another thing for someone to push you through that door—even if you don’t think you are ready. That’s when you know you have a sponsor, a career champion, on your team.

Expertise Endorsements
AT&T executive Jennifer Biry effectively captures the difference between the two with a simple quote: “If I am mentoring someone, I talk to them. If I am sponsoring someone, I talk about them.” In short, sponsors take the next step. Sponsors bring your name up when private requests for qualified candidates are sent out, and they ensure you are given consideration.

Like a coach, a mentor will put his hand on your back.

Sponsors, on the other hand, will put their NAME on your back. I like to refer to this practice as an “endorsement of your expertise.”

It’s up to you to sell the sponsorship…

For more information on relationship building, be sure to check out The Blueprint for a Successful Career on Amazon.

Will Baggett About Will Baggett
Will BaggettStrategic Brand Management--IMG-CLC,is an honor graduate of both the University of Mississippi (2012) as well as Baylor University (2014). He began his career as a graduate assistant with the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and later completed an internship with the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. He is the author of The Blueprint for a Successful Careerand recently founded The Executive Image, a professional presence and strategic communication training program. A self-proclaimed "high school has-been" basketball player, Will resides in Atlanta, Georgia.

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