The Importance of Mentors and Sponsors in Career Growth

Diane Vanasse, VP of Marketing Communications

If you have attended any GSA Women’s Leadership Initiative events you’ve no doubt heard some conversation around mentors and sponsors. More recently, if you had the opportunity to experience the Women in Hardware Mentoring program, you know having a support network to guide career advancement is extremely valuable to women navigating the semiconductor industry. In this article we’ll look at the different roles a mentor and a sponsor can play in your career growth.


Mentorship: Guiding Growth and Nurturing Talent

For anybody, it can be daunting to admit that they need help to succeed in their career on their own. The truth is we all need guidance and support at some point, whether it’s when we are first starting out, trying to solve a particularly challenging technical problem or simply want to lay out a vision for career growth. A mentor can help you set smart goals for career development that are specific, measurable, achievable, and valued by your organization.

This is why mentorship is so critical in the early stages of your career. Seeking out individuals who can actively share knowledge, provide guidance and help you set and achieve career goals is often the pathway to continued career success.

Some of you reading this article undoubtably have mentors, are mentors, or you may be considering becoming a mentor yourself. As you advance, being a mentor can help you build the leadership skills and confidence that can move your career to the next level, as well as help you gain new perspectives while providing a sense of fulfillment.


Sponsorship: Unlocking the Door to Success

While a mentor can help develop a career vision, a sponsor can help drive or realize that vision. The number one thing to understand about sponsorship is that this individual can act on your behalf to tangibly make your career vision a reality. A sponsor advocates on your behalf and can play a key role in the advancement of your career. In some cases, you may not even be aware that a sponsor is acting on your behalf. A sponsor can be an internal colleague at a higher level who can support and promote you. It can even be a previous colleague with considerable influence you can endorse you.


There are steps you can take to actively create a sponsor relationship:

Make sure your contributions are recognized. You may need to get out of your comfort zone and focus on being visible and vocal, to build a reputation as a highly skilled member of the team. It’s important to not let others inadvertently lay claim to your ideas or contributions. Try to ensure that you are the one who presents them to senior colleagues.


Actively take on more challenging tasks. It shows ambition, if you take on responsibilities that require more cross functional/organizational work – especially with people you haven’t collaborated with previously. This shows that you want to contribute to the big picture in terms of what your team and company are trying to achieve.


Actively build your network! Work at forming good relationships by solving problems for your team, helping others and putting yourself forward for new initiatives and complicated projects.


As you evolve and grow professionally, so should your network of mentors and sponsors. Nurturing these relationships can give you confidence in a variety of areas – including those that might be typically out of your comfort zone but are critical for career advancement. In closing, both mentors and sponsors can play a big role in career growth as well as in strengthening an organization. Seek out these relationships, there’s only upside with mentorship and sponsorship!