The Benefits of a Career Sponsor

What is a career sponsor and how does that differ from a career mentor? This week Monique Ruff-Bell joins us and shares how a sponsor has helped take her career to the next level!

Tell us about you.

It’s an interesting story. I’ve been in the events business for about 20 years. 100% all I have ever done, but I’ve done every job imaginable within events. In 2012 I was apart of a large events with so many speakers and fun things happening and I was like, “I want to run this, I want this to be apart of my life.” I needed to figure out how I could get to that. I was running events for about 300 people, not too massive or experiential. I wanted to get to that so I figured out what that job was and what type of skillsets I needed to get to that job and then got on that career trajectory. In 2018 made relationships and continued them and actually the owners of Cam Lines told me they had a job open for an event director for Money 20/20. After 3 months and 6 interviews I got the job.

What is the difference between a career sponsor and mentor?

There definitely is a difference. In 2010 I joined a company called Summit Business Media. I was there for content production, 2 years later we got to go to Cam, and the guy that I met at Summit Business Media, we were the same age and everything but he was a level higher than me. I started to watch, we were similar on how we put our events together, and he had a sponsor. I realized that maybe he would be open to doing the same thing for me that someone did for him. The difference between a mentor and sponsor, I have many mentors in my life they are great at giving advice and perspective and helping you do your job better. A sponsor is a catalyst to moving you within your career. They are the ones that are showcasing you to the right people. They are the ones helping you get promotions or giving you job opportunities. They are doing the heavy lifting with you. I made sure I had this really great relationship with Josh and when he left to go to this other company, I said if there’s anything you need or other openings, keep me in mind. Every time he’d move to a different position, I’d have that same conversation. He’d move mountains and make it happen. We went through 4 jobs together of him giving those different opportunities. He was 100% a coach, he went before me and told me the politics. He gave me the opportunities and promotions. I was adding value to everything he gave me.

This wasn’t a hand out, you had to work hard.

Absolutely, you have to not only work hard but visualize and be strategic about the conversations I had with him, about really sharing what I wanted to do an learn. I had to advocate for myself. He was willing to help me but he wasn’t saying you need to try this or that. I was the one that said I want to try that and learn xy and z and can you help me. The biggest part of this is asking for help. You think when you are doing a good job everyone will notice that and you’ll move up in your career, unfortunately that’s not necessary how the world works.

How did you have that conversation with him?

It was scary, I just knew where I wanted to go and I knew I couldn’t do it on my own, I needed help and a network that can help get me there. When I went to that casting I was dead serious I want to run this. I was never afraid to have that conversation, I just wanted to showcase I was worth it. I was worth that investment.

How do I find that person?

I had a lot of great people I worked with and worked for, but it wasn’t the time for me to do that. Finding a sponsor is not about going up to some stranger or someone in your company, “Can you sponsor me?” It’s such a personal relationship. Trust is such a huge component of that relationship, that person has to really know you and understand you.

What advice do you have for those starting out?

Try everything, for me I was a really well rounded event person.

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