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Fishers, Indiana, United States
Brenda gained career expertise as a human resources leader at a global company before becoming an HR consultant. Her functional experience includes a variety of sales roles in the health care industry achieving success for over 30 years. She is currently in Consulting & Analytics Business Development for a health care firm. Her passion is participating in, writing about and observing the evolving workforce. For the first time in history four generations work together. It keeps things interesting. Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) are redefining retirement and what it means to age in the workforce. It is not just about money. Okay it plays a role! At 76.4 million members strong, Boomers are leveraging technology to continue their careers and the personal fulfillment working brings. Managing a late-stage career requires a strategy. There is no roadmap or one size fits all answer. This blog is about sharing, networking & finding your own right answer to working later, managing your career, redefining retirement, looking for work in your 50s & 60s and reinventing yourself.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mentors vs. Sponsors

These two concepts are often confusing and both are important at all stages of our careers. Most people are familiar with mentors and larger corporation even offer formal mentoring programs. By the time you are 40+ often, you become the mentor. Mentors provide advice and guidance to navigate the corporate culture.

Sponsors are senior executives that have the power to advance their proteges. Sponsors are advocates in a way that mentors often cannot provide for their mentees. Sponsors have the high profile task forces & teams and include their proteges. They can also network with other senior executives on your behalf and remove obstacles and barriers to assignments and opportunities.

When the sponsor/mentor are a male and female employee, sometimes people begin to talk about whether there is more than a business relationship. In a small number of cases it may be true---more often, the protege has been identified as a "high potential employee" and the senior manager has formally or informally become their internal champion.

You are never too old to have a mentor or a sponsor. Even if your human resources department dictates these types of programs for new managers or people new to the organization; you can always approach senior managers you have contact with and ask for their mentorship or advice. It helps if there is personal chemistry and if they know you or your work. (read the post on volunteering from last week--maybe your organization senior leaders volunteer somewhere that is of interest to you).

All this sponsorship and mentoring comes with a few ground rules. You want to insure your direct supervisor is on board (or at least not undermining) the mentor or sponsor relationship. It helps if the company has a program supported by the highest levels of senior management and you are not out with a renegade executive acting alone--that may backfire. These senior executives and middle management mentors are busy people, so ask them how they prefer to interact with you--lunch, tests, phone calls, 7 a.m. coffee? How often is convenient--- once a month? every 6 weeks?

Education. Work experience. Leadership programs. It is not enough. Sometimes it takes being noticed by someone that can help you step through the minefield on the road to upper management. Strive to stay relevant, visible and connected at your company---build alliances with potential mentors and sponsors.

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