Mentorship vs Sponsorship

Mentorship vs. Sponsorship

As I did a little research for this article, I came across these images from Be Leaderly. Here are a few phrases that stood out:

Mentors talk with you
Sponsors talk about you

Mentors give you perspective
Sponsors give you opportunities

Mentors help you skill up
Sponsors help you move up

As I read these phrases, I realized Steven Ray, my mentor, is also my sponsor. I met Steve, Partner & Head of Design at Dialexa in the Spring of 2020. I’ve come to appreciate his energy and genuine interest in my goals. 🙌🏾 Not only has he helped me navigate career choices, but he’s in a position to create opportunities for growth. The right sponsor can use their political capital to move your career forward.

Finding your mentor

Reaching your goals means having the right people in your corner. A few tips to help you find a mentor:

  • Evaluate what you want from your mentor What do you hope to gain? What skills do you want to grow? How will this mentorship give you the edge you feel you’re missing?
  • Look within your organization What better place is there to find a mentor than your current company?
  • Look outside your organization Tap into LinkedIn. Send personalized invitations to connect & tell them why you reached out. Shortly thereafter, invite them for a Google Hangout/Zoom/FaceTime chat.
  • Start small Invite your mentor prospect for a virtual coffee date. Don’t go for the gusto in the first meeting. Your mentor is likely busy. Think, low barrier to entry.
  • Ask questions and take notes Because of course, you should! If this person is a mentor you’d like to connect with long-term, show a genuine interest in the gems they’re dropping.
  • Show Gratitude Be sure to let your mentor know how much you appreciate their time!
  • Pay it Forward Become a mentor yourself! You have something to offer someone who needs it. No telling what that relationship may lead to in the future.

Seeking your sponsor

Looking for a sponsor will be a bit different from finding your mentor. According to The Muse, here are steps that will place you in the right place at the right time:

  • Perform Be such a badass they can’t help but see you. Doing so consistently will motivate a sponsor to advocate for you
  • Scout the prospects Who are the key people praising their direct reports? Who are your colleagues crediting with presenting opportunities for them? Take notice!
  • Exposure is your friend If there’s a void that needs to be filled, step up to the challenge. Getting involved in special projects, committees, and the like
  • Make your accomplishments known What good is an achievement if no one knows about it? Talk about your latest training, new certification, or awards.
  • Have clear professional goals Knowing your goals enables your sponsor to match you with the appropriate opportunities.
  • Share your goals with leaders Informing your mentors & leaders about your goals can lead to the right sponsorship.



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Shara Rosenbalm

Shara Rosenbalm

Digital product designer at Dialexa, advocate for BIPOC, speaker, and hustler.