January is National Mentoring Month.

Mentors are crucial, and I'm proud to be a mentor to some wonderful people and to have been mentored by some awesome folks. But there's more to mentoring than just offering great advice and sounding board services. When I look back at the mentors who helped me the most, I see that what they were actually doing was sponsoring me, advocating on my behalf to help me grow and advance.

Here's an article I wrote about the difference between mentoring and sponsorship for Monster.com a while back. Though it's written for women, I think it applies to everyone regardless of gender. Hopefully it'll help you seek out and provide souped-up mentoring.


Why Women Need a Sponsor for Career Development

Think you’re all set because you get great career guidance from a mentor? Think again. A Catalyst survey found that women who have mentors are less likely to be promoted than women with sponsors. That’s because sponsors help you identify and take advantage of career opportunities.

After reviewing several data sets and interviewing high-potential men and women, researchers found that men are more likely to have sponsors -- mentors who advise and advocate, using their sway to help protégés land high-level assignments and positions. Because women typically don’t have mentors, they don’t advance as far or as fast.

“Everyone’s heard of the importance of having a mentor who gives advice and how to develop, but a sponsor helps you get ahead,” says Christine Silva, director of research at Catalyst and the study’s co-author. “He or she is someone who’s senior in your organization who will advocate on your behalf for development and promotion opportunities.” Click here to continue reading about sponsors v. mentors.