Updated: Dec 20, 2020
AVA is an action-oriented learning community for ambitious professional women. We provide an open, honest place to learn and practice the tools and skills you need to Assess, Visualize, and Advance your career. Share on social media @advancewithava.
One of our founders, Alex, made a leap to a new industry. He recently posted how happy he is and how he did it with the help of a professional mentor and a sponsor. His smile says it all.
The Path To Satisfaction Is Yours, But Not Alone
How many of you have wanted to make a change but are afraid? How many of you made a pivot that didn't go well? How many of you want to transition companies, levels, industries, or wholesale career paths but feel unable to move forward? How many of you just want things to be better at work now?
You have to do it by yourself, and you can’t do it alone. Martin Rutte
A recent study of young professionals, conducted by Boston College found strong connections between career aspirations, career navigations skills, career satisfaction and life satisfaction. The more they understood their skills, established clear and challenging career goals, and built a network of people that can help them find the right jobs; “the more successful they tend to be in their careers and the happier they will tend to be with their lives”.
AVA was founded with the passion that every person deserves to be happy in their career - fulfilled and thriving - no matter what their ambition. For each of the founders, we did that with the help of coaches, mentors and sponsors. We each used different ones at different times and for different reasons.
What Is A Career Coach vs Career Mentor vs Sponsor?
A career coach will listen to your needs and experience and will demonstrate skills that you need to practice to attain your stated goals. Teaching you specific skills needed for your development is the heart of the coaches’ work. Career coaching service is usually a formal, structured way of collaborating over a relatively short period of time to attain a specific goal.
Professional mentorship is typically a long-term relationship where a senior manager offers career advice to a junior person. Some companies have formalized mentor programs, but a mentor does not need to be in the same company as the mentee. The mentor acts as a confidant, sharing ways to navigate workplace challenges. The mentor also is the voice of tough truth, caring enough about the mentee to be honest and straightforward when needed. Having clear expectations and roles/responsibilities on both sides is vital for a satisfying relationship.
To be effective, a sponsor needs to be a senior level executive, most often in the same company. Minda Zetlin says in her blog, Geek Gap, “your sponsor is the person who will speak on your behalf when you are not in the room. He or she will put your name forward for opportunities that you have no way of knowing about.” The sponsor role is not to be taken lightly – by either party. The sponsor is putting their reputation on the line as they advocate at the highest levels for their protégé who should reciprocate in performance.
If You Don't Invest In Your Career, No One Else Will
It is important before making any career decision to assess where you are. Use one of the many tools on our website, such as GAPS analysis, to get you started. This will help you decide which type of support you need.
A mentor is especially useful early on in your career. Mentorship is not something you get, it is something you do. So think of this very proactively. Decide what your specific goals is and find someone who has prior experience and skills in that area. You will want different mentors at different times as your career changes and grows.
A coach is useful throughout your career, especially to help with a next level goal. They can infuse a boost of confidence, skills, tools and practice so that you can go after your most current career objective. It's never too early to start. Although you might be on a tight budget, you have to spend the money to get the money. Try to find someone you can afford or start with a mentor until you can afford to pay a coach.
A sponsor is a great way to get into a new industry, into a new division of your company, on a desired project, or a promotion. Sponsorship gets more important the higher up you go because the number of jobs shrink (think of a pyramid).You should consider seeking out a sponsor when you have the skills and experience for a position. And you can have more than one sponsor giving you more opportunities to advance.
How To Find And Work With The Right One For You
The Muse offers great advice on how to find and work with the right mentor. One key is the mutual connection and commitment. Personal chemistry is important. Take time to find the right fit for you both. Reach out to your network and see if someone knows someone who fits what you are looking for. At AVA, we have become mentors for many women who were referred by other women.
And for those of you at the executive level of your career that want to pay it forward, it is equally important for you to actively find a mentee. There are dozens of women who would benefit from your investment in a long-term relationship with them. Let others know you are available.
Your boss can often be a good sponsor. Don't limit yourself to only one sponsor. It's about efficacy and finding the right person. Try , networking with the C-suite to find someone that is well respected and higher up on career path you desire. No matter who you chose (boss included), assess their power to help you, influence them to sponsor you, and give them knowledge of your praises to be sung.
Your targeted sponsor may exercise authority in a way you don’t care to copy but it’s their clout, not their style, that will turbocharge your career. Their powerful arsenal includes the high-level contacts they can introduce you to, the stretch assignments that will advance your career, their broad perspective when they give critical feedback. Silvia Ann Hewlett, The Right Way to Find A Career Sponsor, HBR.
For those of you in positions higher up on the pyramid, become a sponsor. Someone whose work impresses you and in whom you see strong potential needs someone to connect them to others at the decision-making table.
It is equally important to find the right coach for you. You can ask other friends or colleagues who they use. We advise you to find a coach that is independent of your company. It is your career and an independent coach will help you figure out your best path. If your company offers one, by all means, use them and learn, but beware that the company-hired coach will not be looking out for your best interest, but theirs. Look at coaching credentials and affiliations. Find someone who has experience coaching people in the area you are looking to go. Think about what type of coach you are comfortable with, and think about what investment you are willing to make.
We have complied a list of certified coaches in San Diego to choose from. Connect with us or sign up for our newsletter, so we can send it to you.
Get The Boost You Need To Get Happy
Use a mentor, sponsor and/or a coach to help you get to the next level of your career, whatever that may be for you. Once you select someone, use this Coaching Tool to help you manage the relationship. We love to see you smiling!
What topics do you want to discuss? Let us know in the comments below. #advancewithava