Coaches, Mentors, and Sponsors - Oh My!

Many students are looking for mentors. I should know – not only was I searching for one when I was in pharmacy school, but I also hear today’s students asking me how to find one.

In a future blog, I’ll be writing more about WHY you need a mentor and HOW to find a mentor, but this post is dedicated to getting really clear on what you are asking for.


Let’s start with the basics: what are the differences among coaches, mentors, and sponsors?


Coaches: For short-term advice

Use coaches for specific project (project, presentation, or even for a difficult conversation).


In pharmacy, we utilize coaches all of the time without realizing it.

When you ask someone to coach you, you are showing 21st Century Skills:

1) you realized you needed help (self-awareness)

2) you found someone to help you (resourcefulness)

3) you asked for help (courage)

4) when you succeed, you unknowingly strengthened this bond with this person.


That doesn’t mean you are now BFF’s. In fact, this professional bond has the potential to create opportunities for you in the future. Your coach now knows what you are capable of. They may be more willing to seek you out in the future. They may be more willing to write you a positive letter of recommendation.


A coach is not a mentor, but it's a part of mentoring. A coach could possibly turn into your mentor as the relationship develops. Is there someone who has coached you in the past who you think may make a good mentor?


Mentors: For long-term advice

Mentors are there for career guidance over time. This is someone you can tell the good, bad, and the ugly to. This person knows your strengths, weaknesses, and they believe in you when you don't believe in yourself. They push you past your comfort zone. They know your potential. They help you answer your questions about classes, residencies, career options, and drama with classmates.


A mentor can be inside or outside of your organization. You can have several mentors at one time. You can ask all of your mentors the same questions to help you make a decision.


Sponsors: For opportunities

Sponsors are usually people who have influence inside of your organization. This is someone who sits at the "decision table." This is someone who can advocate for you, speak positively on your behalf, and who wants to see you succeed on your path. You want to look for someone on your leadership team who would say your name should an opportunity arise. You may not have a sponsor right now and that's ok! When a great opportunity comes up, look to see if there is someone who you could ask, "Would you put in a good word for me?"


All of these people make up your very own ADVISORY BOARD. More on this in a future post!


Today's question:

What questions do you have about WHY you need a mentor or HOW to find one?

Click here.


Forward this to your connections in pharmacy!


Reference: Harris C. Expect to Win (2010)


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