Mentoring, coaching and sponsoring

“Mentors can help to hold a mirror up to see how people perceive you and where you could round out your skills. You do have to be a bit thick-skinned and have confidence and commitment as you navigate through the leadership ranks. Having good personal and professional mentors can help to reaffirm your value in what you are trying to do.” - Samantha Sharif, chief executive of Aviation New Zealand.

There will be times when you need advice from others to help identify your skills and what you need to focus on to ensure career advancement. This advice can come from a mentor, a coach or a sponsor. The type of support you choose will depend on your situation and who is available to support you.

What's the difference between mentoring, coaching and sponsoring?


A mentor can provide advice and guidance on your personal and professional development. A mentor can also support you in making important career decisions, like whether or not to accept a new job at a different organisation or pursue other opportunities within your current organisation.  Mentor/mentee conversations are a great place to explore new ideas in a safe and confidential space.

For more advice on mentoring please visit Professionelle's website for information on mentors and Catalyst's website for making mentoring work


Coaching is often instructional, used as a way to train someone. It is often project-based or focuses on a particular skill or task. For more advice on coaching please visit Professionelle's website.


Sponsoring is a more influential professional relationship. A sponsor actively advocates for you when it comes to development opportunities or promotions. While mentoring is important, it’s sponsorship that actually predicts advancement and it's critical at every stage of your career.  While mentoring is essential to leadership development, it is not enough, on its own, to help women advance.

For more on coaching read these articles on sponsoring for success, a toolkit for sponsors and male sponsors.