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Career Focus

Three Essentials for Career Success: Mentors, Sponsors and Coaches

By LISA TRUDEL - December 7 2013

If you are a job seeker, a question you might be asking is ‘how do I fit into a workplace that seems to be resistant instead of accepting?’

If you are a student, a question you might be asking is ‘how do I secure a job by the time I graduate?’

Both of these questions can have the same answer: understand the difference between three new essentials for career success and consider using all three as you move forward in your career. These three essentials are: mentors, sponsors and coaches. They are more important than ever before, especially in the current workplace where the reality is that there is an increase in contract part-time employment, while permanent full-time work seems to be more complicated to secure.

For example, in an article in the Toronto Star on October 26, 2013, which focused on how the retail sector is a growing part of Canada’s economic future, it was noted that “retail work is now the largest employment sector in Canada” and that “82% of retail and sales clerks are over-educated for their jobs” and that “at least 1 in 4 part-time retail workers are classified as involuntary part-time meaning they would like to be working full-time.”

In addition to understanding the reality of the local labour market, developing networking skills, and learning how to target resumes and cover letters, job seekers can profit by learning the following definitions:

Mentors: these are role-models that talk with you. They have been vital for many years and often work in the same occupation you are aiming for. The relationship can be formal or casual and is basically a mutually beneficial relationship for the purpose of developing yourself or your career. Mentorship is sometimes defined as learning in a purposeful way, with the mentor providing valuable advice, building self-esteem and being a sounding board so you can make well-informed career decisions.

For example, mentors can be there for you if you are rejected after a job interview. They can help you gain back motivation and revive your self-worth. Rejection can be hurtful and mentors can help to ease the emotional pain by affirming the aspects of yourself you value and the best qualities you possess.

Sponsors: these are role-models that talk about you. They are very different from mentors. While mentors give, sponsors invest. They are usually someone influential at a more senior level within the company where you might have an entry-level or mid-level position. Sponsors can help to persuade the decision-making process and they often take an interest in your career. Sponsors are powerfully positioned champions and can make a measureable difference for your career progress because they advocate on your behalf connecting you to important key players and promotions. In doing so, they make themselves look good.

Sponsors are not easy to find and sponsorship only works when it is a mutual relationship. In other words, you have to demonstrate that you will deliver an outstanding performance as your career advances within the company.

Coaches: these are people who talk to you. They are career navigators who can guide you with ideas for your resumes, cover letters, job search methods and educational choices. Career coaches offer instruction, either on an individual basis, or in a group format, focusing on specific goals in order for you to develop and attain your objectives. Many coaches assist you by creating achievable career plans and encourage you by monitoring your progress on a regular basis.

Unlike sponsors, career coaches are easy to find and for the job seeker who is unemployed and fits the eligibility for service, Employment Ontario funds dozens of career centres in the GTA where you can meet with a career coach or career specialist free of charge. For example, the Centre for Education & Training,, offers 6 locations, with career specialists ready to coach you toward employment, provide information about the Youth Employment Fund, offer details about Second Career training and answer questions about your career planning.

Whether you are a mature job seeker, a recent graduate or a youth with no work experience, gaining knowledge about mentors, sponsors, allies and professional connections in the workplace is all valuable. The workplace might seem complex as it shifts between the demands for part-time and full-time workers, however a career coach can help you to plot a course and follow a new map using a vast range of career essentials.

Lisa Trudel is a Career Specialist with the Centre for Education & Training. Lisa can be contacted at:

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