Mentoring vs Sponsorship: Why you need both

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Mentors and sponsors are important in achieving career growth and building strong and lasting relationships, but there are vast differences between the two and the impact they can have on your career. Put simply, mentors are advisors and guides, imparting career wisdom and support in achieving your career aspirations. Sponsors act to help you achieve that career goal by connecting you to key relationships and championing your skills to boost your career even further.


What do sponsors and mentors have in common?

Sponsors and mentors have a strong belief in your potential and will be there to support you and champion your success. Where mentoring requires a supportive and healthy relationship to share and guide you through strengths and weaknesses, sponsors need to know your capabilities to feel confident in pitching your skills to others. A sponsorship can be seen as a next step up from mentoring and is often the result of a good mentoring relationship.

In order to succeed in small, medium and big businesses, whether you’re part of a large organisation or starting out as an entrepreneur, both mentors and sponsors will champion your achievements and create possibilities which are sometimes not possible to achieve on your own.


How does a mentor help?

Mentoring benefits not only the mentee, but also the business and the mentor. A good mentor guides you to success through sharing knowledge, inspiring you, challenging you, promoting your strengths and developing and improving on your weaknesses. A mentor is someone you can be completely open and vulnerable around, they have your best interests at heart.

Many mentors are people you know, and programs within the workplace to encourage mentorship gives people the opportunity to ask for help and guidance. There are great benefits to having mentoring programs in the workplace including the development of your employee’s talents and skills to improve and increase growth, productivity and innovation. It also shows staff that management are keen to invest resources and time into helping employees grow and succeed, increasing employee retention and job satisfaction. In small business and start-ups, mentorship can improve the likelihood of business success and provide a relationship in an often lonely working environment. Many mentees go on to become mentors, so there is always a benefit in asking for support from people you look up to in your industry or another.

Many successful people have many mentors through their career that suit different purposes at various times. Having a strong relationship with your mentor or mentee provides the space for honesty and real support. If your organisation doesn’t have a mentoring program, you need to take action yourself. A mentor can be a friend, an acquaintance, someone you were inspired by at a networking event, a trusted colleague or someone you aspire to be. You may even have a mentoring program and are looking for more, it’s ok to expand your mentoring network.


How does a sponsor help?

Sponsorships can often begin as mentorships, though they have the same goal: helping you achieve success in your career. For a sponsor to feel comfortable in championing you to others, they need to have a confident belief in your skills and capabilities, and mentoring provides that platform to show your strengths.

Sponsors are people who advocate for you in business to influential people and decision makers, whether it be within your company or outside your workplace. Whilst a mentor can be someone at any level in their career, including your own, a sponsor is almost always someone more senior and influential than you. It’s this seniority and influence that they can use to help further your goals by working to create opportunities for you and your career. While it can be harder to find a sponsor than a mentor, creating a long-lasting relationship with someone leading the way in your industry, who will advocate for you and aid in finding you new opportunities to grow, is a major benefit to all.


In male dominated industries such as technology, it can be hard to find female mentors and even harder to find female sponsors. However, this shouldn’t deter you from seeking out mentors and sponsors, at emberin we’ve worked with numerous senior female leaders who have had fantastic male mentors and sponsors. These leaders have also told us that having mentors and sponsors has been key to their success. By encouraging more women and diversity in the technology industry we can create more successful people to look up to and seek support from.

While mentors and sponsors effectively do different things to help you with your career goals, they both have one thing in common – they believe in you.

The best mentors aren’t just cheerleaders – they’re coaches. They encourage you, but they also teach you how to think strategically about how to set yourself up for success.” – Melinda Gates

Our recommendation at emberin is that you should seek both mentors and sponsors in order to achieve career success. Start out by finding potential mentors, then try to identify which influential leaders in your organisation might sponsor you. You might find you already have one.

In November, emberin are proudly presenting the 10,000 Women in Tech Virtual Conference We have gathered an array of incredible speakers for the world’s largest professional development conference, who will be discussing mentoring and sponsorship in technology and other industries. Speakers will be providing tips on how to find and engage good mentors and how to handle the relationships. For more information and to register visit

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