Success is rarely achieved alone. Most successful individuals would name a few special people who guided them to their success in a special way.

This could be a family member, friend, someone you met while networking, a boss or even a fellow colleague. The impact these individuals have on your transformation may not always be obvious till you reflect back on your journey.

These people played the role of a coach, a mentor, or a sponsor to you without you even realizing it. In my own personal journey, I have seen and experienced this repeatedly that I firmly believe that everyone needs a coach, mentor, and sponsor to be successful. It doesn’t have to be a paid service, you may already know them or may meet them unexpectedly.

So, what does a coach, mentor, or sponsor look like and how do they help you in your career.

A COACH: The technical expert

The best reference here would be coaches in sports. They are deep technical experts in a very specific field. Their technical skills led them to succeed in their career and now they share their professional experience by teaching others. A football coach teaches one the techniques, strategy, physical training, how to win and more in becoming a professional footballer. In healthcare, this could be an accomplished surgeon imparting his skills and guiding the career path of another aspiring surgeon. A coach normally invests time unconditionally on one individual within a group.

A MENTOR: The big picture expert

A mentor is not a technical expert but has a bird’s eye view and influence within the ecosystem. The national head of radiology for example influences all aspects of building the expertise forward for our country. A hospital CEO is someone who sees the full picture of what it takes to operate a hospital successfully. Thus, the value of a mentor is navigating this big picture for where you want to go. A mentor helps one see the path multiple steps ahead and guides on decisions that might influence success.

As a strong influencer and respected introducer within the ecosystem, a mentor could connect you with key stakeholders that you may never otherwise be able to meet on your own. In a corporate career, a regional or global leader may mentor someone aspiring to grow from a country role. Such a mentor brings value beyond your immediate superior. They help one see what is required in roles beyond the country scope and provide exposure to trends and advancements ahead. This is critical to uncovering new skills that are needed to focus ones development accordingly.

A SPONSOR: The advocate

A sponsor is someone who knows you well intrinsically, recognizes your potential and willing to take risks on your advancement. They talk about you and find opportunities for you in rooms where you are not able to access at this point in your career.

However, a sponsor also does not need many years to know you before being ready to advocate for you. They are very skilled at reading you through your values, aptitude towards work, potential and uniqueness that you bring to the table. A sponsor may test you with difficult tasks that stretch you out of your comfort zone and knowledge to succeed. Without any further guidance they could truly observe how you handle such challenges which often reveals a lot about you. Once convinced of your potential, they would then be willing to advocate for you.

It is important to note that sponsors need to be unbiased individuals to truly benefit your career forward. A family member or authoritative personality advocating for you without actually knowing your potential could hurt your career instead. This leads to being recognized for ‘who you know’ rather than ‘what you know’ which may be counterproductive instead.

In conclusion, there is great benefit to seeking support for your success with such individuals depending on what you need at different phases in your career journey. Successful individuals take a deliberate approach to their career success.

I hope this guides you on how to seek support through a coach, mentor, or sponsor depending on what you need to succeed in your career journey.  Then reach out and speak to them about your need, share sincerely how you feel they could be of help to you and build a trusted relationship with them to see the magic unfold!

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Wanting to explore the options you have out there? Do download Dr Selina’s Switching Careers for Doctors eBook here to get you started on your journey and don’t forget to catch our podcast and videos on our Spotify and YouTube channel

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