written by
Michele Heyward

A Sponsor Characteristics

career advancement Career 3 min read

There are different types of sponsors. We’re going to specifically talk about career sponsors. You will understand the true power that a sponsor has on helping you to get wherever you want to be on your career.

So let’s get right into it on what are the characteristics of a sponsor.

Happy businesswomen planning in diary together on the sofa in the office


Your sponsor can get into meetings you can’t. They know about meetings you’ll will never hear about in your organization. They will be talking to people you generally won't see. They will have the inside track and have the ability to talk about you to people who know nothing about you. It’s truly important to have an advocate who has access to closed door meetings.

Sponsors help you bypass barriers. They truly take barriers out of your way so that you can progress quickly and more smoothly in your career. This person has power and authority to do that. There may be a new opportunity or new role but you hesitate to accept it because you are not ready or you think you didn’t have the requirements. However, your sponsor removes that mandatory requirements for that role, they make it a whole lot easier for you to have access to that role but more importantly they let you know the role is yours for the taking. They will continually provide you access to new opportunities in an organization.


You having the right sponsor can take you into places and different levels that you never thought possible. Sometimes when you receive a new role you may ask yourself, “What if I am really not ready for this role? Now that I have it, what should I do?”

Most women of color would be extremely fearful of failing in this new role. But with your sponsor comes protection for you to fail. Remember they removed the barriers so you can get access to this opportunity and have tied their personal brand to you! Your sponsor want you to succeed while progressing faster in your career. You’ll maybe fail fast but you also need to be able to recover fast.

“Failure is a part of everything in life.”

The sponsor protects you when you fail, nobody else might not believe you but your sponsor will. Sponsors truly do take the chance and sees something different in you and protect you while you are taking high risk. Understand you can take more risk and that is truly how you grow throughout your career because you're taking more risk.


Too often women of color must provide PROOF they can be successful while white men are judged purely on potential. A sponsor will see your skills and abilities in a different way. They see that you have a potential to go above and beyond what many believe you can do. They know you can do great things within the organization while having a great career. While you are trying to figure out why your sponsor selected you, know it’s because they see something great in you.

It’s like picking up vegetables, the right coloring, shape, smell and freshness. It may be a cucumber, cabbage or whatever, you just absolutely know it is right for eating. That’s the same thing with sponsors! They see you, believe in you and know you have what it takes.

Remember an advocate and a mentor are different. They may be the same person but their impacts can be totally different on your career. Just know they are not the same thing.

What is a Mentor?

  • A mentor may not be able to have the same authority to get into the same places as a sponsor.
  • A mentor focuses on the things you need to do in order to progress in your career.
  • You’ll cultivate relationships usually over a long period of time.
  • You’ll meet more often with your mentor.

What is a Sponsor?

  • A sponsor truly does have power, authority and respect from a lot of people.
  • A sponsor’s authority and power allows them to remove barriers.
  • Because of a sponsor’s business and personal relationships coupled with the respect other have for him or her, allows them to protect you.

Do you have a sponsor? How has your sponsor impacted your career?

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