“Mentors can build your self-esteem and provide a sounding board—but they’re not your ticket to the top.” — Sylvia Ann Hewlett
Editor’s Note: I’m always looking out for ideas that could help you succeed so as I meet and talk to successful women, I found out there’s a secret that isn’t talked about enough: to get ahead, you need a sponsor. So many organizations encourage mentors and networking, which are important… but some executives swear that to get to that next level, a mentor just won’t do it. You need a sponsor. That’s when I came across Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s book Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor: The New Way to Fast-Track Your Career. Her research reinforces what I’ve been hearing is a method that really works to build women’s careers.
What’s the premise
The title is a dead giveaway on what the book is about. Basically, if you want to get ahead, the research says you need a sponsor. What’s the difference between a mentor and a sponsor? “Mentors act as a sounding board or a shoulder to cry on, offering advice as needed and support and guidance as requested; they expect very little in return. Sponsors, in contrast, are much more vested in their protégés, offering guidance and critical feedback because they believe in them.”
“Research… shows that sponsors, not mentors, give you real career traction and put you on the path to power and influence by affecting three things: pay raises, high-profile assignments, and promotions.
The book is not a how to find a sponsor, but rather reports the research that convinces you that you really should find one. We know that the “how to” is equally as important as the “why” so we created this guide for you on finding a great sponsor.
Why is this book a good read?
Sylvia Ann Hewlett knows a thing or two about innovation in talent. She’s made a highly impressive career out of her research in the area, authoring 11 critically-acclaimed books including Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor: The New Way to Fast-Track Your Career. Other amazing things she’s done: Sylvia is President and CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation and a Manhattan-based think tank where she chairs the “Task Force for Talent Innovation”—75 global companies focused on fully realizing the new streams of labor in the global marketplace. She is also Co-Director of the Women’s Leadership Program at the Columbia Business School. And by the way, she’s currently ranked #11 on the Thinkers50 list of the world’s most influential business thinkers.
My favorite insights
There’s such a strong focus on mentoring, especially in career pursuits in entrepreneurial or corporate environments and for women, but mentoring has its limitations. Mentors can build your self-esteem and provide a sounding board—but they’re not your ticket to the top. Finding a sponsor helps to receive opportunities to prove your skills and to get noticed or be top-of-mind for projects that you may not have ordinarily had access to… and that’s how the big steps are made.
Who might be interested in reading it?
Women and minorities can most benefit from a sponsor since they are typically underrepresented in senior-levels. This book could be particularly interesting for people who want to work in the corporate world or want to start their own businesses and need connections to start those businesses.
Forbes wrote up this fantastic interview with Sylvia