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Why A Mentor Or Work Sponsor Will Help Grow Your Career

For regular readers of this column, you have heard me say ‘Change is the new permanent and the only way to achieve career success is to design your own version. If you don’t, somebody else will and you may not like their version.’ So, if you want to remain as the designer of your own career success, you must make yourself professionally accountable. You do this by engaging a career mentor, sponsor or buddy.

The purpose of these career accountability relationships are threefold;

  1. To insure you think proactively rather than reactively about your career,
  2. That you future proof your career by consciously identifying your next move and
  3. You take strategic and well thought out progressive steps to keep you on that path.

While the focus of the relationships are similar there are hugely important functional distinctions that to keep in mind.

Choose wisely

Remember you are going to work through some pretty specific detail about your professional life with your mentor, sponsor or buddy so keep these golden rules in mind when considering potential people.

Ask somebody who you trust and respect and who you professionally admire. After that, there are some simple distinctions between mentor, buddy and sponsor that you should keep in mind.

Mentor

Having a mentor as a tool for success is well recorded. Everyone from Oprah to Mark Zuckerberg, Cheryl Sandburg to Bill Gates talk of the value added to their career through working with a mentor. But what exactly does a mentor do and how do you know who to ask to be your mentor?

Never ask a family member, friend or current work colleague to be your mentor. Family and friends are too close while current work colleagues are often in competition with you. Your mentor should be somebody you trust, at a different stage of their career to you and outside your industry. Your mentor should:

  1. Be an objective thought challenger,
  2. Help you manage challenging work situations,
  3. Hold you accountable to your word,
  4. Give practical and tangible career advice and
  5. Focus you on taking the next steps in your career.

It is good to check in every 4 to 6 weeks with your mentor over a coffee or online through Skype or FaceTime.

Sponsor

A career sponsor is very different from mentor yet the two roles are very often confused. Your sponsor should be more senior to you and from the same profession as you. The role of your sponsor is to open professional doors to you to help you progress your career. Your sponsor should,

  1. Introduce you to other influential people within your field,
  2. Connect you with people who can help you progress your career,
  3. Bring you along to meetings, conferences or networking events,
  4. Suggest potential upskilling, reskilling or retraining opportunities.
  5. Open professional doors to you that might not otherwise have been opened.

Again check in every 4 -6 weeks with one another.

Buddy

A career buddy is somebody at the same career stage as you. You both wants to work on a specific area of professional growth and agree to work together. The goal of your relationship is to keep one another on task and accountable for your goal. Check-in’s are normally weekly. To develop a good buddy system, you should

  1. Decide on a specific professional area that you each want to address,
  2. Figure out your respective plan for action,
  3. Write down the specific steps you are going to take,
  4. Share those steps with each other and
  5. Decide on a specific day and time each week that you are going to check in.
  6. Help, encourage and motivate each other to make effective change.

Buddying up can be great fun. At the end of a 4 -6-week period review your work and set new goals. If you have both stuck to your respective goals make a decision to do something nice together, decide on a treat or plan a trip.

Golden Rules

There are a few important things that you should keep check on in any of these relationships. Simple but hugely important arrive on time and finishing up on time.

Make the most of your meetings by prepare well. Decide on a task, topic or idea that you want to explore. Have a list of questions written down and use that as the platform for your session. If you are not paying your mentor, sponsor or buddy always pay for lunch, buy the drinks or bring a coffee with you. Send an email or a handwritten thank you note after you meet.

Help is a two-way street always ask if you can do anything to help your mentor, sponsor or buddy.

By Sinead Brady

@CareertoLove

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