Profiles in Diversity Journal 25th Anniversary
VP of Editorial Services Damian Johnson sat down with Sarah Michel, Professional Speaker, Trainer, and Author of Perfecting Connecting, to discuss successful networking. In...

VP of Editorial Services Damian Johnson sat down with Sarah Michel, Professional Speaker, Trainer, and Author of Perfecting Connecting, to discuss successful networking. In this interview we tackle sponsorship and mentorship—the ever constant gender disparities in the workplace, advice for introverts, and imperatives for successful relationships.

What’s the difference between sponsorship and mentorship?
A: Basically, mentoring is a great for professional development, and what I see that happens often with women is that they will have a mentoring relationship with another woman, which is great, but it tends to be less of an active role and more of a friendship. With men, on the other hand, mentoring quickly goes to action. Their mentor or sponsor says, “I’m going to take you golfing with the CEO,” or “I’m going to take you to lunch with this person.” Things seem to happen more quickly with men. Time and time again, you wonder why women don’t get promoted faster, and a lot of it happens because men get sponsored.

Why don’t women get sponsored?
A: I think women don’t ask for someone to sponsor them. I think women don’t know they can or don’t feel they can, while I think men don’t want to sit around talking about feelings or personalities. Mentoring relationships are really important, but I see mentoring as grooming, coaching, and personal. In fact, I think men need to be mentored more. But this is different from an active “can you help me get connected and make this happen?” type of situation. What I tell people is, look for people that can actively open doors for you and approach them as “how can I be a resource from you?” Of course, this isn’t universal across the board, but I think generally women don’t ask, men do.

Is it ever too early for someone to seek sponsorship?
A: No. If you’re right out of school, you just need to assess how you can be a resource to someone.

What do you do if you’re an introvert?
A: Introverts can make the best networkers out there. The bottom line is it’s about talking to one person at a time and listening. It’s about honing in and asking open-ended questions to find out how you can be a resource. For introverts, I think it’s good to have open-ended questions, and think about them ahead of time. It’s a good idea to look at the list of who is attending [a networking event], see if there is someone you’d like to meet, and then go to your network of people you know and see if someone knows them and can pre-introduce you. It won’t be as hard to initiate when you’re there because they will be expecting you.

What kind of investment is required from both parties in a sponsorship?
A: It’s definitely an action relationship. The person that is sponsoring you is going to actively open doors for you. On the receiving end, look for ways to give back, and not only be a resource but show gratitude. I’m a huge proponent of handwritten thank you notes, and a text or email is not the same thing. Gratitude and appreciation has to be there from the receiver’s end. And then of course, paying it forward. If someone sponsors you, you have the obligation to look for ways to sponsor somebody else.

Decision:

SPONSORSHIP WINS!
While finding a mentor can provide much value, and may be an excellent springboard for building relationships, its focus on the personal benefits as opposed to the career advantages of sponsorship makes it the fallen contender in this bout. Having a sponsor to vouch for you in your absence can be the difference between being promoted and being looked over. For women and underrepresented minorities seeking to get ahead, sponsorship is decidedly necessary.

Sarah Michel is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) and a networking expert. As a certified Myers-Briggs personality style expert, Sarah works with organizations around the world on how to be a more effective connector. She currently resides in Colorado Springs.

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