To learn: get a mentor, to get ahead: get a sponsor

As can happen, in reading about women and diversity I manage to find good tips for everyone.

The topic today is the difference between a mentor and a sponsor

To summarize:

A mentor will help you become a better you, a sponsor will help you get ahead.

I first got a clue about this reading an excellent post from Lynn Harris where she nets out this exact point.

A sponsor is more than a mentor. Sponsors make introductions to the right people, facilitate career moves and guide you through the unwritten rules of organizational life.

Today I noticed another juicy article in HBR entitled Why Men Still Get More Promotions Than Women

All mentoring is not created equal, we discovered. There is a special kind of relationship—called sponsorship—in which the mentor goes beyond giving feedback and advice and uses his or her influence with senior executives to advocate for the mentee. Our interviews and surveys alike suggest that high-potential women are over-mentored and under-sponsored relative to their male peers—and that they are not advancing in their organizations. Furthermore, without sponsorship, women not only are less likely than men to be appointed to top roles but may also be more reluctant to go for them.

I don’t know about you, but I’m personally using this information to redefine what kind of help I’m getting for my own career goals.


The Cornell Bear is intended to make Amy laugh.

One thought on “To learn: get a mentor, to get ahead: get a sponsor

  1. Indeed, an excellent observation of the not so subtle differences, thanks Meg!
    Mentor: synonyms- adviser, master, guide, preceptor
    Sponsor: synonyms- patron, backer, guarantor

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