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The must-know differences between a career mentor, coach, and sponsor

(EDITORIAL) Having someone walk you through your career is essential. But what is the difference between a coach, mentor, or sponsor? We have the answer.

Two women discussing the differences in career coaches, sponsors, and mentors.

Walking into a new job is always nerve-wracking. And with so much shifting in today’s marketplace, being the new person on the job is becoming more of the norm. Now more than ever it’s essential to know the difference between career mentors, coaches, and sponsors.

Mentorship is nothing new to the business world. Strong mentorship programs lead to success for employers and employees.

Mentors have walked the path mentees are on. They offer advice and feedback. They help build strengths. They often turn into friends. They’re a proven difference-maker in seeing a new employee become a valuable long-term team member.

When establishing a mentorship it’s important for the mentor and mentee to know the goals for the relationship. Work together to have a concrete plan for what’s expected. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. There are multiple examples of strong mentorship programs. It is essential to set those expectations right away though, or mentorship can become a mentor-in-name-only, which will lead to frustration for everyone involved.

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Done right, a mentorship program is invaluable.

Coaching is completely different. Coaches are less about relationships and more about helping you through step-by-step goals in a job or outside the workplace. Career coaches can help employees figure out a new path when their current job isn’t fulfilling, they can help pinpoint why employers aren’t calling, they are aware of the current marketplace, and help you find your way to the job you want. They’re hired to help you find the success you’re looking for whether building skills for your current employment or finding a new job.

Sponsorship is an invaluable asset in today’s job market. Sponsors are willing to put your name forward as a potential employee. They know you or at least know about you and are willing to say they trust you would be a great fit for a job. Sponsors take the risk here and you have to live up to the expectation. When you do great work, sponsors reap the benefits of being the ones behind the chance at success.

Mentors, coaches, and sponsors are three more tools to help in today’s marketplace.

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Mary Beth Lee retired from teaching in Texas this year after 28 years as a student media adviser. She spends her time these days reading, writing, fighting for public education and enjoying the empty nester life in Downtown Fort Worth.

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