Mentors & Sponsors: Not So Secret Career Jewels

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Drake has a hype man, Lebron. JLo has a hype woman, Leah. Ellen"s got Portia, Jenn's got Courtney, Ben's got Matt, Sasha'a got AleAli, Gayle's got Oprah, Serena's got Venus. You get the idea. They all have a person who advocates for them when they aren't around. That's the beauty of a sponsor. They all happen to be mentors too. A mentor's role is to help you navigate the space you're trying to make your mark in.

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Now typically mentors and sponsors aren't the same people. Unless you’re an Oprah or Lebron. Why? Sponsors don't need to be in the weeds of your day to day stuff. While they know your strength, weaknesses and killer talents, you want their energy only going towards making you shine bright like a diamond. And they are career jewels that you only want to be flashing on the best occasions.

It's good to have a couple of mentors and sponsors. Ideally, because more mentors mean a good variety of insights and experience to draw on. I have a handful of mentors, new and old, who I've looked to for years to offer me career advice on my day gig side hustle and plans. They are all gems with wickedly different backgrounds and experiences, and I adore every one of them for exactly those reasons.

My sponsors are a shortlist of beautiful humans who have excelled in their chosen industries. They are all seriously connected, know to share that always makes me go "wow", and best of all, are amazing advocates for me when I'm looking to make my mark, advance my career and make key connections.

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Now one thing I hear from some people is "oh only certain people get mentors and sponsors". I call bulls*it. Everyone and I mean everyone, can have mentors and sponsors. You just have to know why you want them, how to value them and of course, be gracious and grateful for them agreeing. It's also important to know that being a mentor or sponsor is a mutual relationship. They get something out of it too. I am both a mentor and a sponsor. And what I get out of hyping others is watching them succeed and grow as people. Like volunteering, the reward is in giving back.

Interested in navigating the mentor/sponsor universe and want to make it happen for yourself? Here are a few tips:

  • Do great work and your commitment, passion and energy will draw fans who offer to be a mentor. Sounds too simple I know...but it happens

  • Reach out to people you admire in your industry AND other industries and ask if they can share their experiences and insights...that's how mentor relationships start

  • Nurture your mentor relationships and over time you'll be able to tell if the more senior, high profile, connected mentors will advocate for you when you're not around...those are the ones you approach to be a sponsor

  • It should be natural and not forced or it just won't work or feel right

One more thing to note, in general, men are more likely to ask for and have sponsors than women. Now that's crazy talk but the truth! I don't share that tidbit to suggest women should seek out only female mentors and sponsors - not at all. Both men and women make great mentors and sponsors. What I am saying is to get out there and make it happen. Mentors and sponsors are serious career bling. Understated, with tons of impact and know how to help you look your best on the daily and show you in your best light when you least expect it.

So go one, get your mentor/sponsor career bling on!