How do you ask for a mentor or sponsor?

Explain what sponsorship could look like. You could spend an hour at the first meeting to review your objectives and brainstorm how they could help you and who they could present you to in support of your goals. Ask your potential mentor if they can make time to meet with you for an hour. You don't want to rush and have enough time for the other person to ask you questions about your goals, etc.

Once you've identified a potential mentor or sponsor, be bold and ask. In my experience, most mentors and sponsors will be happy to be asked. Recognize the difference between a mentor and a sponsor. For example, mentors give you advice about a new job, a raise, or a promotion, but they can't give you a new job.

On the contrary, sponsors can do that for you. They can be bosses, recruiters, or even employers in a new industry. Don't expect mentors to be sponsors, but they can put you in contact with sponsors. Mentors can also be in your life for the long term, while sponsors tend to be more short-term.

The more aware someone is of your work and skills, the more effective they will be in guiding you. In the article “Why You Need a Sponsor, Not a Mentor to Accelerate Your Career,” for Business Insider, author Jenna Goudreau states: “Four recent studies clearly show that sponsorship, not mentoring, is how power is transferred in the workplace. These people are usually mentors and sponsors, and finding one to support and advocate for you can make all the difference in moving your career forward. You can test this by having informal meetings where you discuss your goals and your career, before asking them to be your mentor.

There's nothing more frustrating than mentoring someone who doesn't do the work necessary to take advantage of advice, so you should make it clear to your potential mentor that you're willing to put in the time, energy, and effort to make the most of their advice (and time). Since women and people of color suffer discrimination at higher rates than white men in certain fields, such as STEM, it can be especially helpful for women and people of color to know how to intentionally seek out mentors. Consider hiring an identity-based mentor in your organization, especially if you need to talk about the problems you face as an underrepresented person in your professional environment. This will help a busy mentor stay on track and know what to focus on with you throughout your relationship.

The right mentoring relationship can be a powerful tool for professional growth, as it can lead to new professional opportunities, promotion, and even a better work-life balance. Anjuli Sastry is the co-founder of NPR's Women of Color mentoring program, which has hired more than 100 NPR employees as mentors. His set of interventions includes cultural audits, vision and strategy workshops in the boardrooms on the creation of a human organization, self-managed learning, training, mentoring, psychometry and individual feedback. Without delving into the effectiveness of mentoring, sponsorship (or building a close professional relationship) clearly has a pronounced impact on the professional careers of those protected.

A mentor will help you define your career goals and aspirations, and give you advice to put them into practice. As your mentor will advise you, it's important that you have the qualities and experience that you aspire to have. So take some time to think about what qualities you most admire in leaders and what you would most like to develop in yourself before considering potential mentors.

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