A coach talks to you, a mentor talks with you, and a sponsor talks about you. Each can play a valuable role in your career growth.
What's the difference between these roles?
- A coach provides guidance for your development, often focused on soft skills (e.g., active listening).
- A mentor informally or formally helps you navigate your career, providing guidance for career choices and decisions. Mentors can also help guide you through specific technical (e.g. performance) or strategic (e.g. decision making) topics they may have expertise in.
- A sponsor is a senior leader or other person who uses their influence to help open doors and opportunities for you (e.g. helping you/your work get higher visibility in the company)
Ideally, your coach, mentor or sponsor is someone that takes pride in your progress and success. You really want folks working with you who want to celebrate your growth.
A coach helps you reach a specific goal or handle a particular challenge. A mentor is someone with more experience than you do who offers advice on how best to pursue your career goals. And finally, a sponsor is someone who will go out of their way to make sure that your hard work isn't going unnoticed by senior leaders at work.
A coach is a neutral party or someone you've hired to help you reach a specific personal or professional goal.
Coaches are not necessarily experts in the area of their client's focus, but they do have experience in working with people who need guidance and accountability toward achieving goals. Coaches will help you set and achieve goals, identify your strengths and weaknesses, build strategies for success, hold you accountable for your progress—and much more!
A mentor is an expert who teaches another person by sharing knowledge or skill. Mentors can be valuable resources when it comes to learning new skills or gaining insight into new areas of work. A mentor might share advice on how to handle difficult situations at work; give feedback on proposals or presentations; give references if needed; provide support during challenging times; introduce one party to another contact who could be helpful—and so much more!
A mentor is often someone you (may) know personally who has more experience than you do, whether that be in life or professionally.
They may be older or younger than you and they may have more experience in life or professionally. A mentor could be someone in your industry or outside of it, depending on what type of advice you need.
A coach is different from a mentor because they don't necessarily know you as an individual. Coaches work with clients to help them develop their own skills so that they can make progress towards their goals without having to worry about the specific knowledge needed for success along the way.
The goal is usually much smaller than anything that would need big-picture advice from a mentor—for example, improving one's communication skills rather than learning how to start a business from scratch!
A sponsor is someone in your workplace who will go to bat for you.
A sponsor is someone in your workplace who will go to bat for you. They will call attention to your work, open doors for you and make sure your hard work doesn't go unnoticed by senior leaders.
A sponsor is someone with influence and power in the organization—and they want to help you get ahead! A typical sponsor might be a manager or executive at a higher level than you, but they could also be someone outside of your immediate chain of command (like an industry expert).
They'll advocate for you when you need it. Sponsors have knowledge of what's happening in their field, so if there's an opportunity that's right up your alley, they're more likely than anyone else around you to know about it and help push it through. A good sponsor will also make sure others know what a valuable employee you are so that when opportunities arise they can pass along word that they think would be beneficial.
This could mean speaking up on behalf of one of their employees at meetings or even making calls at home after hours or on weekends once in a while just because an idea popped into their head while sitting in traffic coming back from vacation last week!
It's helpful to have support from all three types of guides in your life.
While all of these people play an important role in your professional life, each one addresses different needs in the workplace.
- A mentor is someone who has gone through similar experiences as you and can offer advice and guidance on how to navigate those challenges. They might share their career path with you so that you can see where they came from, what obstacles they faced along the way, and how they overcame them (or didn't).
- A sponsor is someone who believes in your abilities and advocates for your advancement within an organization. Sponsors usually don't give advice themselves; rather they help make sure that opportunities are available to take advantage of when necessary—like when someone else isn't going to be able to fill in for them at a meeting but wants another person there instead so everyone gets more experience working together as part of a team."
The takeaway here is that having a coach, mentor, and sponsor can all be beneficial in different ways. If you're looking for someone to help you reach a personal goal or just get through a difficult time in your life, then a coach may be right for you.
If you're looking for someone who has more experience than yourself but they aren't necessarily experts in their field, then maybe it's time to think about finding your very own mentor.
Finally if there's someone at work who is vested in your success, celebrates seeing you do well and is happy to use their position to help bat for you, then congratulations because this person just might be able to become one of those special people called sponsors.