The Importance of a Mentor and Sponsor in your Career

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Written by Seun Oyediran

The Importance of Having both a Mentor and Sponsor in your Career

If you think you may never need a mentor or sponsor to succeed in your career, then you may want to consider Carl’s story. Carl was ready to start up the business he had discussed with his father some years back. He had waited till he was a certified businessman and had worked with various organizations. Having being involved in diverse types of businesses with an understanding of the nitty-gritty of business, he was sure he could stand firm when it comes to the administration of a business.

However, as much as he had learned, he knew he needed some backup. He was sure he needed to talk with someone in his line of business, but he needed financial support too. He had his proposals intact, and he could market his ideas quite well. He was not just sure if he should walk up to Mr. Ben, who had been in this business for years. What role will Mr. Ben be playing? Will he be financing the business or giving some advice and instructions? These are questions Carl could not provide an answer to. He spent some quality time trying to figure out what to do. What did he need – a mentor or a sponsor? Well, Carl needed to understand who a mentor is and what differentiates a mentor from a sponsor.

Mentors and Sponsors – Questions You may Want to Ask

  • Who is a mentor and who is a business sponsor?
  • What are the differences between a mentor and a sponsor?
  • Can a person serve as both a mentor and a sponsor?
  • What factors should you consider in choosing either a mentor or a sponsor?
  • Are there special benefits attached to having a mentor or a sponsor in business?
  • Are there consequences of not having either or both?
  • How do you strike a balance between nurturing and maintaining your business with your relationship with mentors and sponsors?
  • Are there strategies to meeting up with the expectations of your mentor, sponsor, and every other person involved in my business growth and management?
  • Should there be special rewards or penalties from mentors and sponsors?
  • Should gender be a determinant factor in the choice of mentorship and sponsorship?

Who is a Mentor?

Literarily, a mentor is anyone into the act of mentoring. A mentor is, therefore, someone who is several years older with greater experience, seniority, and professionalism in a specific field than the protégé. Such a one is exposed to the broader, more comprehensive, and more extensive concept of the area and specialization in focus. Due to the unfolding in learning processes, the mentor does not necessarily need to possess the handful nitty-gritty of the field but keeps researching till death. However, mentors must have a wider knowledge and broader scope of the field to direct a mentee appropriately.

Who is a Sponsor?

The place of a sponsor cannot be well conveyed without a proper understanding of what sponsorship entails. Sponsorship is the financial or material investment in an activity, a person or an event. A sponsor has unrestricted access to potential communication associated with the activity, person, or event they have chosen to sponsor. Sponsorship can be direct or indirect. Sponsorship is also a marketing tool used by companies to reach a broad audience on a global basis. This gives them an edge over their competitors, helping them create massive awareness as well as a higher profit.

Therefore, a sponsor is simply an individual or a body of individuals that provides funds for or have significant input in the staging of a proposal for codification. Sponsors are not raised without properly spelled proposals that define the aim, objectives, and goals of the organization in need of the sponsors. It is also apparent that sponsorship can be in the form of financial support (fundraising and subsidization), the contribution of materials, or divided support for the proposed career.

Differences between a Mentor and a Sponsor

The prior definitions of both terminologies have given a proper insight to understanding the roles both parties play. Here are some pivotal differences between a mentor and a sponsor. 

  1. Areas of Interest

A mentor is much more concerned about your career growth. Mentors are interested in how steadfast your career, focus, methodologies, and approaches are. On the other hand, sponsors concern themselves with the financing of careers. Sponsors can support you either partially, wholly, via fundraising, or consistent contribution of materials.

  1. Roles

While a mentor provides the mentee with pieces of advice consistently, a sponsor wants to be your advocate from time to time. A mentor watches out for how effective the advice given comes to play when put into action. Sponsors lookout for the betterment of the business they sponsor so that nothing rubs their image in the dust. They also sometimes talk to others about the business they sponsor.

  1. Vision and Mission

Your career mentor is more interested in helping you construct your vision and mission carefully. On the other hand, your sponsor has the full commitment of driving your career into reality and bringing it into the limelight. In contrast, your mentor acts as the primary founder of your career vision while your sponsor advances the purview of your mentor.

In essence, the roles of mentors and sponsors are slightly interwoven, but ultimately different. While your mentor works with you in the background, your sponsor needs to see you at the frontline leading other competitors. Your sponsor is your career advocate and has something to lose or gain. Sponsors are personally vested in the upward movement and professional development of their protégé. However, an individual can play both roles for you. 

Factors to Consider before Choosing a Mentor

Understanding the nature of your dream and type of career is pivotal to your choice of a mentor. A mentor should have an adequate level of exposure, experience, and emotional intelligence. 

To choose a mentor, you should consider the following properties in your proposed mentor.

  • A sound level of exposure to the nature of your career
  • A well-developed experience and undiversified involvement in your chosen field
  • An undistorted emotional intelligence to strike a balance between your career management and personal relationship
  • A comprehensive understanding of the value system of your chosen career
  • Should properly fit into your career vision and mission
  • Should have excellent communication skills 

These factors and more should be your consideration before choosing a mentor. Don’t just walk up to anyone. 

Factors to Consider before Choosing a Sponsor

Choosing a sponsor is pivotal to your success in your career. Below are some factors to consider when making your choice of a career sponsor. 

  • The level of trust you have for such an individual
  • The openness in communication from both parties
  • The commitment of such a person to your vision from the start
  • The level of honesty, financial capability, and connection to a circle of friends and colleagues
  • The price you have to pay
  • Your readiness to accommodate excesses from your sponsor 

So, what is your flow rate with the sponsor? Are you on the same level of understanding? Can your sponsor analyze your report and have a comprehensive understanding of what you communicate? Honesty and commitment work hand-in-hand with trust and is essential for success. 

Benefits of Mentorship and Sponsorship in Career

As someone who wants to advance in your career, you need to wake up and stop assuming that there are no benefits attached to having a mentor or sponsor. Here are some of the reasons why you need a mentor and a sponsor in your career.

  • Your mentor and sponsor will guide you through your career path and contribute to its success
  • You have people to turn to when you’re confused or not sure what to do
  • You’re answerable to someone – this will keep you on your toes and make you more accountable
  • You have financial support and backing to help you set bigger goals and reach them
  • You get to learn and get many things on a platter of gold!

Creating Intentional Schedules with Your Mentor and Sponsor

Here is how to create intentional schedules:

  • Don’t allow your previous relationship with your mentor or sponsor affect your career relationship
  • Always respect your meeting schedules, timing, and pieces of advice given
  • Spell out your relationship
  • You should clearly state your aim, goals, objectives, and achievement patterns, but never tamper with the views of your mentor or sponsor for selfish interest
  • Define it when it is about your career or theirs.

It is essential to strike a balance if your career must survive. Learn to enjoy your mentee-mentor relationship to the fullest. Do not despise it!

Managing Expectations and Creating Standards

Having mentees and protégés working with me is of great value. Here are some tips on how my mentor and sponsor helped me manage their expectations in line with my targets:

  • They gave me a clear and simplified definition of my roles. That kept me in the focus of my targets from time to time.
  • They got me acquainted with the nature and culture of my career and monitored me to carry out these expectations continually.
  • They provided me with more flexibility to learn with speed for productivity.
  • They appreciated me from time to time and acknowledged my personality when necessary.
  • Openness and transparency made expectations come through.
  • Consistency in their demands for involvement and creativity got me dynamic.
  • They were friendly with professional boundaries.
  • There were times I could not meet up, and there were measures of penalties for not meeting up.

The Importance of Mentorship And Sponsorship For Women

There is a pronounced gender discrepancy when it comes to mentorship. In the polarized world that we live in, many women need mentors and sponsors to get them on track. For centuries, women have always been relegated to the background due to standing beliefs, religion, and what have you. They face cultural and institutional barriers on their path to advancement as they climb the corporate ladder. For these reasons and more, many women need mentorship. 

In a study by the Center for American Progress, women make up only 20% of executives, managers, and senior officers in high-tech U.S. companies. Only 22.7% of women are law school partners; Only 16% of women are permanent medical school deans; Only 32% of women become full professors; Only 30% of women progress to become college presidents, and only 12.5% of CFOs in Fortune 500 companies are women. 

The number of female leaders and mentors shrinks significantly as one advances up the ladder. When women get the needed mentorship and sponsorship, they will be able to discuss some pressing issues and rise faster with a network of supporters, mentors, and allies. Many female folks aspire to gain positions mostly dominated by men. But once they have mentors that are interested in their careers and sponsors willing to invest in them, there is no limit to what they can attain. 


You will need mentors and sponsors if you want to advance in your career with unprecedented speed. While it is possible to become self-made, that path may prove to be more demanding. Consider choosing the right mentor and sponsor for your career!

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