Last week, one of my previous term students texted me to discuss her career aspirations. Students usually approach their tutors to discuss career and educational endeavours as they consider their teachers as their goal guides. However, when our discussion concluded, she complimented me as her mentor, and that was when I started reflecting on that comment and asked myself Am I a mentor or a coach to my student? I believe this question usually comes in our mind at least once in our lifetime that Role Model, Mentor, Coach, and Sponsor. What is the difference? Which do you need? Is it a single person or four different personalities? Which will help us to excel forward in our goals? Interestingly, each of them has a distinctive role that can help push our career and self-confidence differently.
According to Ruth Gotian, a keynote speaker and coach about optimising success, a Role Model is someone you look up to and respect. You may never meet the person, but there is something about them you wish to compete with. Perhaps it is how they have executive presence, public speaking skills, or the ability to connect with people. Consider who you watch on television, your favourite public speakers, people at work, in your family, community, or house of worship. What is it about them that you admire and respect?
However, Mentor is someone you know for a long time or ideally a team of people who can help guide your career. For example, you come up with a goal and plan, and a mentor enables you to revise and fine-tune your strategy, introduces you to people in their network, teaches you skills you should know, and provides emotional support when needed. Mentors are generally volunteers.
On the other hand, a Coach is someone who works with you for a finite period to help you develop and enhance specific skills. For example, my past students and parents usually approach me for coaching to work on their career leadership skills, overcome imposter syndrome, and develop decision-making skills and time management habits. Although teachers like me never charged for such services, a coach is paid for their counselling services in general. Many organisations offer coaching for their C-suite employees with either in house or external coaches. Coaching is open to everyone.
Finally, a Sponsor is someone who talks about you when you are not in the room and shines a spotlight on your hard work and achievements. Generally, sponsors nominate you for awards, prestigious opportunities, and promotions. Peers can select each other for prizes. Someone junior can even designate someone more senior for recognition. You could virtually sponsor someone by congratulating them online for their achievements, large and small.
Role models, mentors, coaches, and sponsors could be as few as one person can take on all of these responsibilities or, more likely, up to four separate people. The important thing is that you have people with these four defined roles to help accelerate your career and become even more successful. Just because there is a pandemic does not mean you cannot develop your career and professional skill set.