by Kim Seals.
Kim is an active investor in early-stage technology, life science, consumer product, and media companies. Additionally, she provides HR, management and IT consulting expertise in support of the entrepreneurs.
Over the last 25+ years, I have been fortunate enough to develop both short and long term relationships with people who have been incredibly helpful to me as I have advanced my career. Several years ago, I heard someone refer to this as “building your own personal board of directors”. I’ve always loved this term and use it frequently to describe these people who have been so generous with their time over the years to provide me with both career related and personal advice. Just like a corporate board, they have their roles to play – as coaches, mentors and / or sponsors. And I’ve tried to ensure it was a diverse group – men and women, those in roles more senior and junior to me, as well as peers. All of them bringing some different perspectives and experiences to the conversations.
When you think about how you might put together your own personal board of directors, it’s important to know what’s different about each of these roles and why you are going to need all three at different points in your career.
Coaches are typically focused on working with you to improve your performance in specific areas, like helping you become a more strategic thinker or manage a team more effectively.
Mentors form broader, longer term development driven relationships with you, focusing on both skills and capabilities for your current role, as well as for future jobs.
Sponsors are highly connected individuals within your current company who are willing to act as advocates to help you accelerate your career. For example, a sponsor will connect you to important players within your organization and to assignments that will promote your visibility to key leaders.
As you progress your career, you will want (and need) a network of coaches, mentors and sponsors who can help you develop and provide access to new opportunities.
This is my first in a series of posts on this topic. Over the next few months, I’ll spend more time writing about each of these roles and sharing my thoughts on how you might leverage these roles during critical points in your career.