Sponsors, Mentors, and How Best to Use Them
Last month we welcomed Joanne Kamens, PhD, Founder of the Massachusetts Association for Women in Science, Senior Consultant at Diversity Group North, mentorship expert and DEI advocate, to discuss mentorship and sponsorship for career advancement in Biotech and BioPharma. We have highlighted some of the insights from that webinar below.
What is the difference between a sponsor and a mentor?
A sponsor is a colleague within your organization who agrees to support your career advancement and suggest you for new roles, responsibilities, or projects. They voice your interests and qualifications to senior team members.
A mentor is a closer relationship, and should be someone outside of your organization. They ask you difficult questions, work with you to build skills, and encourage you on a personal level. You share more with a mentor than a sponsor.
What kind of mentorship should you look for?
Peer mentoring: Mentors don’t need to be higher in the career ladder, the people who understand your concerns and goals are often those with similar roles or seniority.
Group mentoring: Formal programs in companies with a group mentoring format are far more successful. 1:1 matching is hard to do successfully by outsiders. One’s individual mentors should be identified from within your network and relationships - chosen because the relationship “clicks”. Multiple mentors: You should have mentors who are like you and who are very different from you. Different people will bring out different skills in you or complement your aspirations in different ways.
How to find mentors and sponsors?
Causal: Don’t ask someone to be your mentor, just ask them to have a conversation with you, ask for some advice, or invite them for coffee! Follow up if you feel like it benefited you.
Programs: Many workplaces or networking groups now have mentoring circles. This is a good way to find mentorship with guidance from experts. Look for group programs rather than one-to-one matching programs.
Pre-existing: Examine your current relationships. Who has supported you, or given good advice? Nurture those relationships, you may already have a mentor and not know it.
What do you do in return?
For Sponsors: You do your best at the roles they recommend you for. If you find an opportunity that they would be good for, you recommend them in return.
For Mentors: Be accountable. When you agree to a meeting, show up on time. When you promise to do something with your mentor’s encouragement, follow through. Take the time to thank them when something they share with you pays off.
Pass it on: be a mentor to others and expand your network and your mentors’ network.
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