Why you need a Coach, Mentor, and Sponsor?
YES!! You need all three, no matter the stage of your career. Let's look at the importance of each of these critical members of your professional posse.
A coach helps you improve your skills and performance in a particular activity.
A mentor provides guidance, knowledge, and advice, usually over the long-term, to help you achieve your goals.
Career sponsors are your advocates, provide opportunities for visibility, and foster important relationships and business contacts to help you achieve your goals.
It's important to delineate how you select, recruit and engage in the relationship with each of these members of your team.
First, define your goals over the next 5 years (this is a good duration to keep the task manageable, particularly if you are early in your career, mid-career can likely project further); I have a template that I use for this I'll share here.
Next, Identify the areas where you need skills development to achieve these initial goals - a coach can help you to learn those skills! For example, time management or a programming language may be needed to gain the skills needed for the next level. Finding someone executing those responsibilities within your career path could accelerate your learning.
Mentoring can be a great asset to become more prepared and clear on the responsibilities and business acumen needed for the next level of the career path. Identifying a resource that is currently performing at the next level of responsibly can share within a safe space some of the challenges and how to overcome or avoid pitfalls, as well as share with you strategies to achieve your next goal. A strong mentor will also share with you your weaknesses; consider this a highly personal relationship and strive to find a mentor that seeks for you to discover, grow and embrace conflict. You may find several mentors that you work with over time, these are likely to be 6-month to 1-year intentional relationships.
Career Sponsors are members of the Senior levels of management and have the ability to provide you with access to a network of leaders that invest in your long-term career growth. Sponsors are extremely important for mid-career and high-performance Directors and above. Career advancement without sponsors is much less likely and more difficult as the need for proven skills and a history of high-value business impact become critical. Actively seeking leaders you respect who hold a role 5-10 years advanced from yours and looking for appropriate engagement with them via special projects, speaking engagements, constructive feedback, and shared social/charitable interests are all great ways to initiate a discussion about your long-term career goals.
Coaches, Mentors, and Sponsors, together with a plan, focus, and hard work, can mean the difference between having a job or having a thriving career!