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Forget a mentor, find a sponsor

Whether you are a more junior team member or a senior business leader, chances are you have been, are currently, or at least have considered participating in some type of mentorship relationship, traditional or otherwise. But who among you have considered the possibility of making more strategic alliances with each other?

Mentorship is well established, in the traditional arrangement of a senior leader guiding a more junior colleague. It has been in place in companies for the past three decades, but research proves it doesn’t result directly in tangible career advances such as promotions or pay increases. According to Sylvia Ann Hewlett, this disparity shows that mentorship isn’t necessarily what makes the difference in terms of career advancement. It is great for those seeking punctual personal support (a “shoulder to cry on”), but for junior employees and senior leaders looking to forge a generous, mutually beneficial long-term relationship, mentorship is not the answer. Sponsorship is. It is also more in line with today’s work environments, which reward collaboration and giving.

Based on

Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor: The New Way to Fast-Track Your Career, by Sylvia Ann Hewlett (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013).


Sponsorship is a strategic alliance between senior leaders (sponsors) and more junior team members (protégés), which each enters into in order to help the other achieve his or her own career goals.

Sponsors help protégés rise through the ranks

Being sponsored means having a more senior colleague advocate for you to receive promotions, stretch assignments, and so on in exchange for your performance and loyalty. Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s three-year worldwide inquiry, conducted through her Manhattan-based think tank, the Center for Talent Innovation, indicates several significant correlations between being sponsored and achieving the rate of career advancement that you want:

  • Being sponsored increases the odds of securing requested assignments and pay increases by 20 to 30% (depending on what you’re asking for).
  • 70% of sponsored men and 68% of sponsored women feel satisfied with their rate of career progression versus just 57% of their unsponsored peers.
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Françoise Tollet
Published by Françoise Tollet
She spent 12 years in industry, working for Bolloré Technologies, among others. She co-founded Business Digest in 1992 and has been running the company since 1998. And she took the Internet plunge in 1996, even before coming on board as part of the BD team.