Navigating Professional Growth: Understanding the Difference Between a Sponsor and a Mentor

By Alarna Chivers on 08 May 2024

Navigating Professional Growth: Understanding the Difference Between a Sponsor and a Mentor

​We often see two figures play crucial roles in one's professional development, a sponsor and a mentor. Both can be instrumental in fostering growth and advancement, although they serve different purposes and forms of support. Understanding these differences is essential for individuals seeking to maximise their potential and achieve goals.

What’s the difference between a sponsor and a mentor?

A sponsor is someone in a position of influence within an organisation who actively advocates for and supports the career advancement of a trainee. Sponsors typically hold decision-making power and use their influence to create opportunities for their trainees, such as promotions, high-profile projects, or visibility within the company.

A mentor is an experienced individual who provides guidance, advice, and support to a less experienced person, known as a mentee. Mentors offer insights based on their own professional experiences and help mentees navigate challenges, develop skills, and expand their networks.

There are three key differences between sponsors and mentors:

1. Level of engagement:
  • Sponsors focus on the career advancement of their trainees and actively work to create opportunities for them. Their involvement is often beyond traditional mentorship, they leverage their influence to open doors.

  • Mentors play the role of guiding and advising their mentees. They typically provide their support through regular meetings, discussions and feedback sessions, but usually do not have the same level of influence as sponsors.

2. Focus of support:
  • The primary focus of sponsorship is to create tangible opportunities for career advancement.

  • Mentors focus on providing guidance, advice and developmental support to their mentees. ​

3. Visibility and advocacy:
  • Sponsors play a critical role in increasing their trainees' visibility within an organisation. Often they use their influence to ensure that their trainee is recognised for their achievements and given opportunities to showcase their skills.

  • Mentors can advocate for their mentees within their networks, their primary focus is to provide personalised guidance and support, rather than promoting visibility.

While sponsors and mentors have distinct differences. There are some benefits that trainees and mentees collectively will receive from these types of partnerships:

  • Complementary support

  • Expanded perspectives

  • Long-term growth

Understanding the differences between sponsorship and mentorship is essential when considering professional growth opportunities. While sponsors focus on creating opportunities and advocating for career advancement, mentors provide guidance, support, and developmental feedback.


Here at Kinexus, we have proudly founded The Future Through Collaboration (TFTC) mentor program, partnering with a group of pioneering Defence organisations since 2014. We aim to work towards a collective goal of enhancing and growing capability by mentoring women within the defence industry.

This year we are launching our 10th program, applications are open until the 3rd of June 2024. If this is something you or your organisation would be interested in, reach out to our Program Manager, Sophie Wright, at

Photo by Daniel Lloyd Blunk-Fernández on Unsplash

Defence Sector Blog

Sign up to get your monthly dose of industry updates sent straight to your inbox.

From workforce strategy to sector overviews, we aim to advise and equip industry with the intel that helps individuals and business alike make better, more informed decisions. 


Defence Sector Blog Sign up