Do you have a Mentor, Advocate and Sponsor?
Everyone knows that no one succeeds by him or herself. An essential element in developing a successful career path is recognizing the type of support you need to grow and develop your career.
Last week at the Women’s Foodservice Forum Annual Leadership Conference, Fritzi Woods, CEO and President of the WFF opened the conference by asking the nearly 2300 conference attendees – “who are your mentors, advocates and sponsors?” (#WFFHQ & #WFFConf12)
One of the questions we hear so often is what is the difference between mentor, advocate and sponsor? Based upon the Women’s Foodservice Forum’s definition they are the following:
- Mentor – the primary focus is coaching and developing. You share your strengths and weaknesses and look for ways to improve. A mentor talks to you.
- Advocate – the primary focus is about championing and representing you to others when you are not in the room. An advocate talks about you in a positive and proactive way.
- Sponsor – the significance of a sponsor is their ability to be an influencer and decision makers in your career advancement. They have the power and the authority to elevate you to the next levels. A sponsor elevates your career.
Successful career development is enhanced when a person has a network of mentors, advocates and sponsors. Also, having a network of just mentors is a not enough, especially for women. It has been said that women are over mentored and under-sponsored and that being under-sponsored is what contributes significantly to women’s inability to advance.
The impact of a sponsor is so significant for both men and women that there are numerous books, articles and research written on the topic. One of most the significant research reports was published in January, 2011 from Harvard Business Review entitled; The Sponsor Effect: Breaking Through the Last Glass Ceiling by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Kerrie Peraino, Laura Sherbin, Karen Sumberg. Here are just a few key findings from this report:
- Women underestimate the power of the sponsor effect. Sponsorship confers a statistical benefit of up to 30 percent in terms of more stretch assignments, promotions, and pay raises.
- Most women believe that hard work alone will succeed in turning heads and netting rewards. Fully 77 percent insist that hard work and long hours, not connections, account for their advancement.
- Valuable professional relationships between an older, more powerful male and a younger female are avoided for fear of speculation of an affair. Most senior men (64 percent) avoid sponsoring junior women for this reason.
- Women benefit from, but rarely get, sponsor guidance on how to adjust their style, clothing, and executive presence to look the part of a leader - feedback men readily give to other men.
Building a network of mentors, advocates and sponsors is a career development non-negotiable. The facts are undeniable, the benefits are clear and the significance is obvious. Part of our process at Crystal Clear Careers is to ask you inventory and explore many questions about mentors, advocates and sponsors and the power and effectiveness of your network. Building a network of mentors, advocates and sponsors is a critical strategy for long-term career success.
As you look at your own network ask yourself the following questions; “who are my mentors, advocates and sponsors?” “What do I need to be doing differently to expand my network of advocates and sponsors?” “Who is actively working on my behalf to elevate my career?” If you can’t readily answer these questions and name a minimum of two people per position, then it is time for you to start building your career by building your network. The first step in that process is to simply ask someone to be your mentor, advocate or sponsor. If you are prepared and ready to take that step you will be amazed at how easy it for mentors, advocates and sponsors to say yes!