Career Sponsors v. Mentors

Next month, I will be delivering a presentation to Black Law Students in Canada, in which I will be talking about mentorship or career sponsorship.

This draft brief blog post is essentially a thought piece to help me develop the ideas I’d like to share with the group. The presentation will be parts oral and parts visual. I’ll upload the Prezi once the presentation has been made.

In the meantime, I want to share a few thoughts on career sponsorship versus mentors.

Who is the Mentor?

Okay, imagine a village made up of one or more communities comprised of lots of family units, diyads, triads and quads of various compositions. You’re a member of that community.

You’re a painter.

In fact, you’re the best painter your village has seen. People say amazing things about your painting. When they need a painter, they call you and you alone.

You like this. You feel fulfilled by it. You want to be a better painter, to paint more things, to widen the breadth of the things you paint, to start a painting school to share your talents and skills with others. But you need some help.

A mentor will help you. They will talk to you about your goals and help you reach them. A skilled mentor will not impose their desires or dreams upon you. They are a safe landing spot for your ideas and dreams and can be a positive motivating force helping you clarify the steps you need to take to paint more, increase your talents and start a school. You may meet with your mentor on a regular basis to tell them how far you’ve come along the path. Once you reach your goals, you and your mentor will celebrate. You may part ways at that point, or it may be on to the next idea…

Who is the Career Sponsor?

Okay, same situation.

Recap: You’re a painter. You want to paint more, start a school, etc..

A career sponsor will help you. They will talk to you about your goals, and then they will proactively advocate for you.

They may or may not mentor you, probably not. But they will call all de people dem that they know who need a painter who don’t know you already, and will give them your email address. They will take pictures of your paintings and put them on blast, maybe even leak them to other villages who may not have heard about you. Then, they will ask around to see if there are a few people in the village or other villages who want to learn to paint, and they’ll suggest that you contact them so that you can beta your school idea. They’ll give you the name of a next friend who started a cooking school and could share their experience with you. When you are a success, or when you fail, they’ll be there with more ideas to help you along to your goal.

A good career sponsor may also stop you in your tracks. They may point out that a school may not be a good idea for you because they know that you don’t like structure. They may suggest to you that instead of starting a school, that you try teaching a class at a community centre to see if you like the school-model. Maybe you want to do one-off workshops instead of an actual school. Maybe you want to create a set of videos instead of actually teaching one on one?

Knowing When and Why you need a Mentor or Career Sponsor

In my life, if I have goals I need help meeting, I turn to my mentors. I tell them what I want to do and ask them for their guidance. They respond with ideas and I follow them. Or, their ideas may help me get clarity on whether I really want to pursue those goals, or whether I just want to talk about them.

I need and seek career sponsorship when I have a vague idea, or a desire that has not formed yet and I need someone in the know to share their resources with me and to help me in ways I may not know that I need. My goal is to achieve clarity and get started on activating the idea.

Knowing whether you need a career sponsor or a mentor, and in what capacity is a very important thing to spend time thinking about.

It can be the difference between meeting your personal, professional, and community goals.

I can’t imagine my life without mine!

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