Do I Need a Sponsor, Advisor, Coach or Mentor? Yes.
Tapping into your network, both within and outside of your company, can provide great insights and support for your career growth. But first you need to be clear on what you need, who can help and where the gaps exist in your network that you need to fill.
There are four primary roles you will need to tap into over your career, and many of these overlap:
A SPONSOR is someone who is in a position to advocate on your behalf for a specific opportunity whether it be a promotion, a new role or taking a meeting to pitch an idea. They speak positively on your behalf and act as your representative.
An ADVISOR is an expert in a specific area. The expertise can be technical, functional or leadership-based. Many times advisors also provide access to people in their areas of expertise, but this is not their primary role.
A CAREER COACH is the least utilized role but often provides the most value. Coaches create structure, do goal-setting and hold themselves and you accountable for making progress. They are an objective voice to challenge and guide you. This is typically someone you hire and the return on investment can be invaluable.
A MENTOR is a role model who has been there, done that and lived to tell the tale. She/he provides wisdom across broad career journeys and experiences and is usually someone you want to emulate in a significant way. Choosing a mentor is a very personal decision as it is not just about what that person accomplished but how they accomplished it. Mentors really need to be chosen by mentees, not assigned to them, to be successful.
Being clear on who can fill these roles will enable you to be purposeful in your networking and set realistic expectations about what you ask of and expect from your network.