Why You Need a Sponsor Not a Mentor!

Like this on Facebook

Could your career use an influential advocate?

When you first begin your career, it’s important to enlist a few great mentors. As your career advances toward mid-level opportunities and beyond, you should enlist a diverse slate of mentors, and seek out an elite category of advocate: a sponsor.

“A sponsor is an influential spokesperson for what you are capable of doing,” says Millette Granville, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Delhaize Group. There are many ways in which a sponsor can use their voice to boost your career, from putting your name forward for a coveted role to adding the weight of their influence to push your proposals forward to shining a spotlight on your strengths and achievements.

A good sponsor can spot strengths you’re not even aware of because they are underdeveloped. What’s more, a sponsor sees how your strengths can add value in areas of the business you’ve yet to explore. Due to their influence, sponsors can open more career doors than you ever thought possible. And they articulate a vision for your career that is bigger than you could ever imagine.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the right sponsorship can catapult your career to new heights.

Having the support of a sponsor is also like navigating your career wrapped in an extra-thick layer of bubble wrap. Sponsors can protect you during organizational shake-ups—such as an acquisition, re-org, or layoff—mitigating the downside of making bolder, riskier, career moves.

As Kerrie Peraino, Senior Vice President for Human Resources and Chief Talent Officer, American Express, has said: “Having an active advocate completely changes your career.” I’m pretty sure she means change for the better.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Sponsorship

To truly grasp the impact of sponsorship and the boost it can give your career, here are five facts worth knowing: 

1. There’s a sponsorship gender gap.

Women are less likely than male peers to benefit from sponsorship, according to Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Kerrie Peraino, Laura Sherbin, and Karen Sumberg. In the report, “The Sponsor Effect: Breaking Through the Last Glass Ceiling,” the authors describe their discovery that only 13% of women and 19% of men working full-time for large companies have a sponsor. So while the sponsorship gender gap may be smaller than you’d have guessed, it’s still significant, and one of the reasons why men still outnumber women nearly two to one in top leadership positions.

2. Sponsors empower you to make bold moves.

The authors of “The Sponsor Effect” also found that people who have the backing of a powerful sponsor are at least 22% more likely to summon the courage to ask for stretch assignments and raises. Having a sponsor is like having a career safety net, which makes it easier to be bolder, take risks, and ask for what’s important to you. And, as other studies have shown, whether it’s a pay raise, a promotion, or a plum assignment, people who ask for these benefits are much more likely to get them.

3. Sponsors enhance your career satisfaction.

How happy are you, right now, with the pace of your career growth? According to the study’s authors, women and men feel more satisfied with their career advancement when they have sponsors. If you feel like your career has plateaued or that you’re being overlooked for opportunities, a sponsor can help.

4. Sponsors transfer a “halo” of power to protégés.

When reporting on sponsorship research conducted by Hewlett’s organization, The Center for Talent Innovation, Jenna Goudreau, a writer for Business Insider, noted, “Four U.S.-based and global studies clearly show that sponsorship—not mentorship—is how power is transferred in the workplace.” If women are less likely to be sponsored than their male colleagues, then it’s no surprise that it’s more difficult for women to gain influence. Whether your goal is to launch a new product, turn around a struggling team, or attract broader responsibilities, having an influential ally in your corner makes it easier.

5. You’re underestimating the benefits of sponsorship.

Here’s one final nugget from the research referenced in “The Sponsor Effect”: “We found that the majority of ambitious women underestimate the pivotal role sponsorship plays in their advancement—not just within their current firm, but throughout their career and across their industry.”

If you’re an ambitious woman, then it’s likely that you, too, are underestimating the benefits sponsorship can confer on your career.

Here’s a collection of four articles about sponsors and the role they play, how they differ from mentors, why you absolutely need to get one, and where to begin your search.

• Are You Overmentored and Undersponsored?

• Ask an Exec: Can My Mentor Be My Sponsor?

• Sponsors: The People Who Can Open More Career Doors Than You Ever Thought Possible

• 7 Ways to Spot a Potential Sponsor

If it feels like there’s a brick wall standing between you and your next career breakthrough (or if you’d like to act preemptively to avoid future barriers) having a sponsor can make a huge difference. Remember, it’s better to face those obstacles with someone who has your back!

Jo Miller

A leading authority on women’s leadership, Jo Miller is a sought-after, dynamic, and engaging speaker, delivering more than 70 speaking presentations annually to audiences of up to 1,200 women. Her expertise lies in helping women lead, climb, and thrive in their corporate careers. Jo has traveled widely in Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East to deliver keynotes and teach workshops for women’s leadership conferences, women’s professional associations, and Fortune 1000 corporate women’s initiatives. Jo is founding editor of BeLeaderly.com. Learn more about her speaking engagements at www.JoMiller.net and follow @Jo_Miller on Twitter.


Leaderly Quote: Become an Asset to Someone You Aspire to Be Like

Want to find yourself an influential sponsor? Here's a great tip from Sandra Veszi Einhorn, who is the Executive Director at Rebuilding Together Broward County: ...

Leaderly Quote: Opportunities are yours to create

"Opportunities are yours to create, not gifts from a boss or your company." — Liz Brenner In a post on her blog, Lead With Intuition, ...

6 Months. 6 Management Lessons.

Last week marked my six-month anniversary at Ride, which also marks six months of being a manager. It coincided with my team being in Medellin ...

Ready to lead?

We'll show you how!
Get email updates from Be Leaderly.

Our mission is to provide the career strategies that help you lead, climb and thrive as a rising woman of influence.

Four Types of Questions To Ask Your Mentor

Have conversations with your mentor gotten a bit repetitive lately? Perhaps you approached ...

5 Ways to be a Leader, Not a Manager

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a manager and a leader? ...

How to Shut Down a Colleague Who Takes Credit for Your Work

Has this ever happened to you? You’re in a meeting and the unthinkable ...

15 Songs for Your Leadership Playlist

It was one of those conference moments I’ll never forget: Carly Fiorina had ...

10 Killer Leadership Skills: The Great Differentiators?

Last week at Hallmark I hosted a couple gentlemen from a partner company. ...

Influencing Without Authority—Using Your Six Sources of Influence

I am in the difficult situation of being unofficial project lead, responsible for ...

11 Leadership Lessons Learned

Here are 11 lessons I’ve learned about leadership—mostly from much-admired colleagues, and just ...

6 Critical Missteps That Hurt Your Career Advancement

Let’s face it: it isn’t easy to break out and establish yourself as ...

9 Traits of Exceptional Leaders

Truly great leaders are hard to come by, but it seems everyone thinks ...

Nine Qualities of Female Leaders Who Get Beyond the Glass Ceiling

I’m frequently asked to speak about women in law and specifically the issue ...

5 Things Women Leaders Should Stop Doing. TODAY.

Over the last couple years, I’ve had a front row seat to career ...

8 Types of Courage for Aspiring Leaders

“The truth is that courage resides within you; you must simply decide to ...

4 Characteristics of Leaders Who Get Hired and Promoted

Imagine if you had the opportunity to sit down with a senior executive ...

25 Questions to Ask a Mentor

A few years ago, around the time when I was launching this blog, ...

Want to be Excited on Monday Morning? Be an Intrapreneur.
Want to be Excited on Monday Morning? Be an Intrapreneur.

“While it’s true that every company needs an entrepreneur to get it under way, healthy

4 Hidden Ways to Take Risks — And Propel Your Career Forward
4 Hidden Ways to Take Risks — And Propel Your Career Forward

“Have big dreams. You will grow into them.” — Unknown If you’re looking for a

How to Have a Thicker Skin for Negative Feedback
How to Have a Thicker Skin for Negative Feedback

Everyone agrees that it’s a smart practice to ask for feedback. Don’t walk through life with

Leaderly Quote: Don’t be a “lone ranger.”
Leaderly Quote: Don’t be a “lone ranger.”

“How do you know when you’re breaking too many rules?” I asked this question of

Learn to Become a Fierce Negotiator With Our Latest Infographic!
Learn to Become a Fierce Negotiator With Our Latest Infographic!

We hope you love our visual take on tips to help you negotiate like a

4 Sloppy Speech Habits that Undermine Your Influence
4 Sloppy Speech Habits that Undermine Your Influence

At what point would you stop listening to a speaker who opens with: “So, OK,

Asking for a Raise in the Age of #MeToo
Asking for a Raise in the Age of #MeToo

Thinking of asking for a raise? “The old negotiating adage still rings true: if you

Leaderly Quote: Demote your inner perfectionist
Leaderly Quote: Demote your inner perfectionist

For some of us active and recovering perfectionists, we await feedback holding out hope that if

The Top 5 Most-Read Articles this Month
The Top 5 Most-Read Articles this Month

Here are the top articles that other emerging leaders have been reading at BeLeaderly.com this month. Do

3 Ways to be a Strategist, Not a Tactician
3 Ways to be a Strategist, Not a Tactician

“You need to be more strategic.” Many aspiring leaders have heard this type of feedback

Be Leaderly Spotlight: Selena Rezvani
Be Leaderly Spotlight: Selena Rezvani

We’re thrilled to welcome Selena Rezvani to the Be Leaderly team, and to her new role

Emerging Leader Spotlight: Erin Lo
Emerging Leader Spotlight: Erin Lo

Every month we ask an emerging leader we admire to share what she is doing

How to Go After Awards and Recognition (and Win)
How to Go After Awards and Recognition (and Win)

Just last week, a Director at a well-regarded business school explained to me that she

Leaderly Quote: Don’t let fear steal your dreams
Leaderly Quote: Don’t let fear steal your dreams

“Don’t let fear steal your dreams.” — Sabina Nawaz

At Be Leaderly, our mission is a simple one: To provide proven career strategies that help you lead, climb, and thrive as a rising woman of influence. If you’re ready to lead, we’re here to support and inspire you.




We will never share, rent, or sell your personal information or email address.
Copyright 2018, Be Leaderly