How to Solve the Sponsorship Gap in Your Career

Top executives explain the difference between having a mentor and sponsor

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While the concept of having both a sponsor and mentor is thrown around when discussing the keys to attaining career success, it’s important to note the valuable, yet distinct role, both titles play.

“A mentor is your personal trainer and a sponsor is your agent,” said AT&T’s Chief Diversity Officer, Cynthia Marshall, during the “Who’s Got Your Back” panel discussion at Black Enterprise’s Women of Power Summit.

[Related: Memorable Moments from Women of Power: Day 1]

Using the sports analogy, Marshall, along with Estée Lauder’s Tracey Travis and Intel’s Sharon Brogdon, spoke candidly about why a mentor is simply not enough in helping you to reach the next level.

“Mentors are important, but sponsors are the ones that get your career going,” said Travis, who serves as executive vice president and chief financial officer for Estée Lauder.

Shedding light on how both sponsors and mentors have helped them to reach success, the panel also advised a room full of leading women on how they can go about getting a sponsor to speak on their behalf.

Brogdon, who is director of Strategic Capability at Intel, encouraged the women to be deliberate about who they want to be their sponsor and to examine how the relationship can be a two-way street where both parties benefit from each other.

“My protégés are constantly providing me with new information, sending me articles and letting me know about events I may be interested in,” said Travis while adding to Brogdon’s point.

With Carol Fulp, president and CEO of The Partnership Inc. serving as a moderator for the panel, panelists and attendees were charged to conduct an accountability exercise with one another before leaving the session.

“Think about an action item you will commit to help fulfill your sponsorship gap,” said Fulp.

With this action item in mind, the ladies turned to one another, shared their commitment goal and agreed to keep in touch to ensure that they each make steps toward achieving that goal by March 21.