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7 Steps for Finding Effective Mentorship and Sponsorship for Greater Career Advancement

Written by HRCap, Inc.

March 13, 2024

7 Steps for Finding Effective Mentorship and Sponsorship for Greater Career Advancement

For the first time in 68 years of Fortune 500 history, 10% of Fortune 500 companies were women-led in 2023. While this is a sign of progress, women still face obstacles that prevent them from advancing up the corporate ladder, largely due to a lack of mentorship and sponsorship.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s research in 2013 indicates that men are 46% more likely to have a career sponsor than women. This gap increases for people of color, as white people are 63% more likely to have a sponsor than people of color.

Differences Between Mentorship and Sponsorship

Mentorships and sponsorships are essential components of professional development, each playing distinct yet complementary roles.

Mentors are individuals with experience and expertise who offer their guidance, advice, and support to less experienced individuals. This relationship is characterized by mutual trust and respect, with mentors helping mentees navigate their careers and develop skills.

In contrast, sponsors are influential figures within organizations who actively advocate for and promote the career advancement of their protégés. Unlike mentors, sponsors use their influence, networks, and social capital to create opportunities for their protégés, such as promotions, high-profile projects, or increased visibility. While mentoring relationships are often informal and built on personal rapport, sponsorship arrangements are more formal and transactional, with sponsors expecting results from those they sponsor.

Finding the Right Mentor

Though finding a mentor can be challenging and seem daunting, there are important steps that professionals can take to help find potential mentors.

1. Identify Professional Goals

When seeking a mentor, professionals should consider both their short- and long-term goals. By defining clear objectives, individuals can seek mentors with the qualifications to help them navigate unique challenges and achieve specific career aspirations.

2. Seek Leaders with Relevant Expertise and Experience

After identifying goals, career professionals should find experienced leaders who possess the relevant expertise to help them in their professional development. Seeking mentors who have navigated similar career paths or have acquired specialized knowledge can provide invaluable insights and guidance. These elements will help foster accelerated career growth.

3. Benchmark Company Mentorship Programs

Certain companies may already offer mentoring programs that connect mentors with mentees. Such programs can be especially helpful if professionals are uncertain about how to reach out or have limited exposure to experienced managers. Leveraging these internal programs streamlines the mentorship process and ensures alignment with the company’s culture and objectives.

4. Explore External Opportunities

Professionals should also look for a mentor outside of their current company. There are organizations and programs that are dedicated to providing mentorship opportunities, such as the Aspire Mentorship Program or The Venture Center Mentorship Program, which connects budding professionals with experienced mentors from various backgrounds and industries. Exploring these external opportunities can broaden an individual’s network and expose them to diverse perspectives, especially from like-minded leaders in the industry or subject field.

Finding the Right Sponsor

Establishing a sponsor relationship may be more challenging and complicated than finding a mentor. Due to sponsorship's transactional nature, those seeking a sponsor will need to go the extra mile to stand out and show their potential.

1. Excel and Exceed at Work

Professionals should become experts in their roles, fields, and industries to show that they are highly capable and skilled. Additionally, volunteering and taking on significant projects or extra assignments may help garner attention from potential sponsors. By demonstrating growing expertise and a consistent commitment to go above and beyond, individuals establish themselves as valuable assets within their organization and increase their visibility and credibility.

2. Build a Reputation

By becoming an expert and taking on more responsibilities, professionals will build a strong, positive reputation that appeals to potential sponsors who are looking to support talented individuals. Reputation not only showcases a professional’s abilities but also underscores their potential for growth and success.

3. Network Intentionally

Getting connected with the right influential people will provide more opportunities to connect with the right sponsors. Even mentors or managers can help widen a professional network. Actively seeking out networking opportunities, attending industry events, and leveraging online platforms like LinkedIn can facilitate meaningful connections with potential sponsors.

HRCap Empowering Women

HRCap is dedicated to empowering women in their workforce and through the services we provide to our clients. We are committed to gender equality, offering comprehensive career coaching and actively promoting the placement of women candidates in leadership roles. We have also uplifted women by hosting a business professional clothing drive to provide for career women in need and donated the clothing to Dress for Success - Northern NJ, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering women to achieve economic independence.

By fostering a supportive environment through tailored mentorship, we ensure that women employees have the resources and support they need to thrive professionally. In recognition of our commitment to empowering and advancing women in the workforce, HRCap received the 2023 “Empowering Women Award” from NJBIZ Magazine.


Navigating through workplace politics and pursuing career advancement is difficult to do alone, especially for women of color. Instead of facing this challenge alone, women professionals should seek both mentorship and sponsorship to proactively build a network that can provide the necessary support and advocacy that empower their potential in their respective fields.

HRCap is partnering with AAPI New Jersey for a career development event series focused on breaking barriers and empowering women. Join us on March 15, 2024, from 12:30 PM to 1 PM for the webinar “Empowering AAPI Women Through Mentorship” to learn more about the benefits and differences between mentorships and sponsorships and how to find one in the workplace.

Register here and join in the discussion!

Source: HRCap, AAPI New Jersey, Coursera, Fast Company, Forbes, Fortune, HBR, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Quartz, Ten Thousand Coffees, The Muse, Time, Yale Insights


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