Accepted wisdom used to be that you only needed an influential firm mentor to rapidly progress your career in the Big 4, Magic Circle or Mid-Tier Firms. In this blog post I share an exclusive extract from the 2nd edition of ‘How to make partner and still have a life’ (Click here for a free sample chapter) and shines a light on the role of sponsor and how this differs from a mentor.
The best way to build and advance your career is through developing mentoring and sponsorship relationships.
Many people confuse sponsorship with mentoring. A mentor is someone who formally or informally helps the mentee to navigate his or her career, provides guidance on career choices, and helps them to learn, develop and achieve their career goals. The mentors’ roles can also include providing professional development, confidence building, emotional and personal support (see Table 8.1 for a list of the mentors roles and functions).
In the past, a mentor was someone who took you “under his wing”, shared their knowledge and experience with you; explained how things work in your firm, made sure you got good work, introduced you to his clients and influential contacts, protected you, and promoted your career.
Now, as the concept of mentoring has become widespread in many firms, mentors are increasing viewed as advisors and counsellors – they support your career but do not necessarily go out of their way to promote and advance it. So, while continuing to be important for professional development, as your career moves closer to the top and where competition for partnership is fierce, you will need a sponsor – a powerful and influential person who will be a strong advocate for you.
Sponsorship happen when people in positions of influence see exceptional performance from and potential in, an individual, so much so that they want that person to have greater opportunities to excel. Without doubt, these critical opportunities benefit high performers, giving them the chance to shine, gain valuable visibility, and develop skills they may not otherwise get – all of which are crucial for advancement.