Mentorship vs. Sponsorship: How to Do Both Better

Updated: Nov 7

According to the Harvard Business Review, a lack of sponsorship is keeping women from advancing into leadership. Nancy Mendelson and Emily Goldfischer visit with Robin Moncrieffe on the Don't Look Under the Bed podcast to discuss the difference between mentorship and sponsorship and how to get your feet up the career ladder.

Robin Moncrieffe

Listen to the podcast HERE


Do you know the difference between having a mentor and having a sponsor?


A mentor is "a more experienced professional who shares his or her skills, knowledge, experience and expertise with you on an agreed regular basis," according to Worksmart.org.uk.

A mentor is "a more experienced professional who shares his or her skills, knowledge, experience and expertise with you on an agreed regular basis.

According to Jo Miller, founding editor of Be Leaderly and CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching, Inc., "a sponsor is someone who will use his or her internal political and social capital to move your career forward within an organization. Behind closed doors, he or she will argue your case.” Whereas a mentor is someone who gives advice, council, and even friendship, a sponsor is someone who will "give you opportunities," according to Miller.

A sponsor is someone who will use his or her internal political and social capital to move your career forward within an organization. Behind closed doors, he or she will argue your case.

So, how do you get a sponsor? According to Miller, "the catch is, you don’t get to choose the sponsor; the sponsor almost always chooses you." In a series of reports on sponsorship, Catalyst reported, “There is no ‘silver bullet’ for attracting the attention of a high-level sponsor”—and that’s certainly true. However, through Miller's 15 years of experience coaching emerging leaders to advance their careers, she has pinpointed 6 behaviors that can swing the odds in your favor and make it more likely that a sponsor will choose and advocate for you.


Six Ways to Get a Sponsor


1. Perform

Great performance must come first. You can’t expect a sponsor to advocate for you and put his or her own reputation on the line to speak up on your behalf if you’re not going above and beyond in your role.

2. Know Who the Good Sponsors Are

This can be tricky, but see if you can identify the leaders in your organization who have a track record of being talent developers and talent scouts.

3. Raise Your Hand for Exposure Opportunities

You can’t expect a sponsor to put his or her reputation on the line when he or she doesn’t know the quality of your work and what you’re capable of accomplishing. So, look for a special project working directly for one of the potential sponsors you identified in the previous step, or try to join special task forces or committees.

Another tactic, that my first boss at Loews Hotels, Charlotte St. Martin always used and suggested: join the CVB or any association relevant to your field and take a leadership role to demonstrate your skills. She credits this tactic to her rise from GM in Dallas to heading sales and marketing at Loews' corporate office in New York.

Another tactic, that my first boss at Loews Hotels, Charlotte St. Martin always used and suggested: join the CVB or any association relevant to your field and take a leadership role to demonstrate your skills. She credits this tactic to her rise from GM in Dallas to heading sales and marketing at Loews' corporate office in New York.

4. Make Your Value Visible

Whatever you do, don’t be the best-kept secret in the organization! Once you achieve something noteworthy, make your achievements visible to your leaders.

For example, if you bump into a potential sponsor in the cafeteria line, ask how he or she is doing. Chances are he or she will ask you the same, so have a ready-to-share sound bite about a recent accomplishment, so you can respond, “I’m doing well. I just ...." Re-write your elevator speech so that every time you introduce yourself, you’ll be showcasing your leadership skills and the value you add to your organization.

5. Have Clear Career Goals

You may not know what each next step is, but have clarity on your big career goals. There’s little chance a sponsor is going to know what opportunities to match you with if you don’t even know what you want for yourself.

6. Share Your Career Goals With Your Leaders

This is the clincher. If you are a demonstrated high performer and have clear career goals, sharing those goals with your manager, your mentors, and leaders can often be enough to enlist their sponsorship.


Listen to our conversation about mentorship vs. sponsorship with Robin, where we share our experiences in the workplace, and let us know any tips that have worked for you to get a sponsor!


Final suggestion: check out the Castell Project and Women in Travel Thrive for resources specific to women in hospitality.