Mentors and sponsors – why both?

This post is inspired by an amazing TED talk snippet from the breathtaking Carla Harris. So, I already wrote about mentors, and you might have even started to look for one based on it – and now I come with this “sponsor” thing, looks like I cannot make up my mind? So, what is actually a sponsor? When and why do you need one?

Big multinational companies offer numerous opportunities for professional growth, but they can also be complex and challenging work environments. For this reason, having a sponsor can be incredibly valuable. A sponsor is an influential person within the organization who advocates for and supports a protégé’s career advancement. In this post, I will explore the value of having a sponsor if you work at a big multinational company.

Increased Visibility

One of the most significant benefits of having a sponsor is increased visibility within the organization. Sponsors are usually high-ranking executives or senior leaders who can offer valuable exposure to their protégés. This increased visibility can help you gain recognition and establish a reputation for excellence. Moreover, it can also provide valuable networking opportunities, which can lead to more significant opportunities and promotions.

Access to Resources

Working at a big multinational company can be challenging, and it can be challenging to navigate the various departments, teams, and stakeholders. A sponsor can help you gain access to resources that are critical to your success, such as training programs, mentorship opportunities, and important information about the company culture and policies. Sponsors can also offer guidance on how to navigate the complex organizational structure and offer insights on how to manage competing priorities and stakeholders.

Accelerated Learning

Another valuable benefit of having a sponsor is accelerated learning. A sponsor can offer invaluable advice and guidance, drawing from their own experience to help you avoid common pitfalls and achieve your career goals more efficiently. They can also help you identify opportunities for growth and development and provide insights into the skills and competencies needed for advancement within the company.

Advocacy and Support

A sponsor’s most significant value is their advocacy and support for their protégé’s career advancement. Sponsors can use their influence and network to open doors and create opportunities that might otherwise be inaccessible. They can also provide valuable feedback and offer guidance on how to develop critical skills and competencies that are necessary for success within the organization.

Increased Engagement and Retention

Finally, having a sponsor can help increase engagement and retention within the organization. Employees who feel supported and valued are more likely to be committed to their work and stay with the company long-term. Furthermore, sponsors can help employees understand how their work fits into the larger organizational goals and provide insights on how to make a more significant impact.

So, sponsor or mentor?

The short answer is: Both. In addition to the benefits of having a sponsor, it is important to understand how having a sponsor differs from having a mentor. While there is overlap between these roles, there are some key differences to consider.

A mentor is typically someone who provides guidance and advice on a broader range of topics, including personal and professional development. Mentors can come from within or outside of the organization, and they often have expertise in a particular field or industry. Mentors may provide support, feedback, and encouragement, but they are not necessarily in a position to advocate for their mentees within the organization.

A sponsor, on the other hand, is someone who actively supports and advocates for their protégé’s career advancement within the organization. Sponsors are typically higher up in the organization and have the influence and power to open doors and create opportunities for their protégés. Sponsors also provide critical feedback, guidance, and support, but their focus is on helping their protégés achieve their career goals within the organization.

In summary, while both mentors and sponsors provide valuable support and guidance, their focus and scope differ. Mentors provide guidance on personal and professional development, while sponsors focus specifically on career advancement within the organization. It is essential to understand the differences between these roles and identify which one is best suited for your specific career goals and needs. In some cases, having both a mentor and a sponsor can be beneficial, as they can provide complementary support and guidance in different areas of your professional development.


In conclusion, having a sponsor is incredibly valuable, especially for employees working at big multinational companies. Sponsors can provide increased visibility, access to resources, accelerated learning, advocacy and support, and increased engagement and retention. If you are looking to advance your career and make a more significant impact within your organization, it is essential to seek out a sponsor who can help guide and support your professional growth.

Thank you for coming to my TED talk 😉

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