We have all heard about the importance of a mentor to help advance one’s career. Some organisations even have formal mentoring programs where senior managers are required, as part of their job responsibilities, to mentor junior staff.
While having a mentor is a valuable relationship as one climbs the organizational ladder, this person is quite different from a champion, and plays a different role.
What Is a Mentor?
A mentor is generally understood to be someone who provides advice based on their experience. The advice may be on technical, professional or even personal matters. A mentor is a sounding board, a friend, a counselor. Mentors often open up their networks, and introduce their mentee to others who can be of assistance. A mentoring relationship can be formal or informal. The mentor may work within the same organization, or could easily be employed elsewhere. Often family members can provide valuable advice as a mentor.
What Is a Champion?
A champion, on the other hand, is someone within the same organization, who has a say in your future. A champion is someone prepared to step up and speak on your behalf to people who make decisions with regard to promotions, raises, and assignments. A champion is someone who becomes invested in your future because they have taken a vocal stand behind you as a professional, and represented to decision-makers that they believe in your success.
Which Should You Have?
Throughout your career you will need both mentors and champions. At the more junior levels of an organisation, you may not need a champion to the same degree. As you rise through the ranks, you will undoubtedly need champions who will advocate for you to get to the next level.