Paid in Full #006: Sponsorship vs. mentorship

publishedabout 2 months ago
4 min read

Read time: 6 minutes

Sponsorship vs. mentorship:

I have some of the best mentors in the world. Some I met online by reaching out and asking to be friends. Others I met through a random interaction and decided not to let them go without connecting again later. And the rest, I have actually never met in-person. Over the years, I’ve learned that you can receive mentorship from almost anyone if you understand how it actually works. So what is it? And what’s the difference between mentorship and sponsorship?

Here’s a principle that has helped me learn the difference and make less mistakes as I build my career and businesses:

Guiding Principle:

Wise people learn from the mistakes of others

It’s virtually impossible to go through life without making any mistakes. But so many mistakes we make in our careers and businesses are completely avoidable. If you want to see real growth and make less errors, become more humble. Listen to the people who have gone before you – the ones who have already done what you are trying to do – and learn their lessons. Trying to figure everything out by yourself is a show of pride, not independence. Be wise.

I've been down this road before

Last week, I went for brunch with a very successful entrepreneur who has built multiple seven- and eight-figure businesses. We connected over LinkedIn a few years ago and finally made the time to meet in person. The two hours we spent together changed my life. It was obvious I was speaking to someone who had made a ton of mistakes and still found a way to create real success. While he was speaking, I realized the difference between having a mentor and having a sponsor. Here’s what you need to keep in mind as you work towards getting paid in full:

Mentorship is the flow of wisdom

Believe it or not, having mentors (yes, more than one!) is a crucial part of unlocking your potential. There must be someone in your life who sees more in you than you see in yourself because you will always be your biggest critic. They also must be able to show you a map of their life so you can see what is possible for yours. A great mentor teaches you what they did right. They explain the steps they took to become the person they are today. But they also share the stories of loss, regret and pain that shaped them. In other words, they show you their badges of honour and their battlescars! This combination makes you wiser. If you’re not sure where to find mentors, you can start with some of these resources:

Sponsorship is the flow of power

A mentor will share their wisdom with you, but sponsors will share their power with you – that’s the key difference. It’s one thing for a leader to share lessons with you and tell you what to do. It’s another thing for them to reach out to someone on your behalf, or to leverage their power to get you into a room. This is why you need sponsors AND mentors. You can create sponsors by:

  1. Connecting with them monthly: Set up a recurring monthly meeting and use that time to share updates from what you are working on. When you meet, consistently invite their opinion into your decision-making. People will sponsor you when they genuinely believe they can have a hand in your success.
  2. Making it easy for them to talk about you: Write down some bullet points summarizing what you’re currently working on. Create a retrospective chart of something important you did that made an impact. Use Zoom or Loom to show your sponsor a three-minute breakdown of the progress you are making on a project. The easier you make it to talk about you, the more they will talk about you.
  3. Sharing your goals with them: If your sponsor does not know where you are trying to go, they can’t help you get there. Keep sharing your dreams and visions with them, even as they change. Tell them where you see yourself and invite them to help you craft your way to your destination.

One of the reasons I could get a promotion in 18 months at Shopify was because I had two sponsors. One of them was even willing to create a new role just for me – that’s leveraging power. It’s important to turn your most engaged mentors into your biggest advocates by making them sponsors.

Give more than you take

Relationships are like flowers. For a relationship to thrive, you must consistently water it. Sponsors and mentors are often high-functioning people who are generally ahead of you in life. You might not be able to buy them fancy things but it is important that you continue to give them a reason to show up. Ask them to meet up in person once in a while so you can give them companionship. Introduce them to someone else in your network who might add value to their life. Every once in a while, you should call them just to check on them. Remember their kids’ birthdays and their anniversary. I once showed up to one of my mentor’s houses with a box of donuts for their family and they took an hour just to hang out with me on their front lawn. He still talks about it to this day. Planting and watering these small seeds allows you to give more than you take – and to keep great relationships forever.

Don’t be too proud to ask for help as you move through your career or entrepreneurial journey. Someone has gone before you and is willing to share how they got there. Find some mentors and turn a few of them into sponsors. It will change your life.

Recommendation of the week:

Find at least one mentor this week!

This is an intentional thing you must commit to. It is very rare for mentors to come to you – especially early in your life and career. It’s your job to go out of your way to find them. Check out the resources we shared or search within your network.

Once you find the person you would like to mentor you, set up a call and kick off the relationship. It’s never too early to ask for help.

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See you next week!


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