Mentorship vs. Sponsorship— What’s the Difference (and Why Does It Matter)?

Mentorship vs. Sponsorship— What’s the Difference (and Why Does It Matter)?

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If you spend much time online, you’ll run across an abundance of websites
recruiting sponsorships for veterans. Individuals and businesses can donate funds
for a variety of projects. Sometimes the donations are to local or national agencies
that help veterans financially or materially, and sometimes the donations go to
programs that assist veterans in getting jobs or establishing new careers. In general,
though, veterans’ organizations partner with sponsoring businesses in a mutually
beneficial way: the groups receive the support necessary to advance their mission,
while sponsors receive partnership benefits and publicity.

However, the sponsorship model, while beneficial, is limited in that it gives
financial support to an interim organization that may use those funds in any number
of ways. And as the Bob Woodruff Foundation recently pointed out in a panel
discussion entitled “The Next Chapter: Veterans in the New American Workforce,”
returning service members need more than mere thanks, or even handouts: they
need to learn how to use their skills in the private sector. Woodruff, an ABC News
correspondent and co-founder of the foundation, brought together top leaders in
tech, government, and the military to discuss how companies get a competitive
advantage from engaging veterans on a more direct basis. In other words, the panel
advocated mentorship rather than sponsorship as a model.

Every year, about 360,000 men and women leave the military seeking new
careers in the private sector. And, as Heroes Linked has proved, when advisors take
an active interest in the career path of veterans and undertake to mentor them, both
advisors and advisees benefit. Heroes Linked helps veterans identify their areas of
experience, expertise, and interest, and matches them with advisors who guide
them—from help in navigating a particular industry to technical matters like
résumé critique.

A mentor is a source of information and wisdom, but it’s also a two-way street:
the mentor benefits greatly from learning about the challenges transitioning service
members face. In addition, while mentors can give general guidance the long-term,
it’s not infrequent to have several mentors over the course of your professional life,
with new mentors giving support during different phases of your career.
Both mentors and sponsors are important in maximizing career growth, but
mentors will champion your successes and help you open doors as you transition to
a new career.

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