Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility


Coaches, Mentors and Champions

Team Liftery
February 1, 2024

Who’s got this work-thing wrapped up and so completely under control that you never need to ask anyone for suggestions or advice? 


Us either. 

In our journeys towards personal and professional success, we can all benefit from a support system. You’ve probably heard that coaches, mentors and champions (also known as sponsors) can provide guidance and encouragement. But how do you know what you need at any given time? Let’s take a look at each one, the differences between them, and why all three are important for working women, in particular.

The Coach

Have you ever thought it might be nice to have a strategic partner by your side to help you identify and tackle your personal and professional goals? Enter the coach! Think of them as your reliable ally, offering support, guidance, and feedback to help you navigate challenges, make informed decisions, and achieve your desired outcomes. They’re not just advisors; they’re the professionals who show you the ropes in the most efficient and polished manner, assisting you in honing your talents. A coach’s expertise makes you better equipped to handle workplace challenges and reach your true potential. Coaching is typically a paid service, an investment in yourself that can yield significant returns.

Here are some benefits:

Skill enhancement. Coaches provide specific feedback to build skills and address weaknesses.

Goal setting. They help in setting and achieving realistic, measurable goals.

Accountability. Coaches keep you accountable for your actions, which helps you work toward your goals with discipline.

There are many types of coaches, and here are a few that provide support at the crossroads of work and life:

  • Career coaches help you grow in your current role, guide career decisions, and advise on work-life integration.
  • Entrepreneurship coaches support you in building a business. 
  • Executive / leadership coaches enhance your leadership skills at work.
  • Life coaches focus on personal growth and relationships, self-worth and self-confidence, and taking action towards living a life with purpose.

Consider this scenario: you’ve been laid off from your most recent position, you’re feeling a bit uncertain and not-so-confident about your career prospects, and think you might like to pursue a different type of role or industry. That’s where a career coach comes in. They’ll team up with you to assess your skills and interests, focus your sights on the right role and type of company, boost your confidence, sharpen your interviewing skills, and craft a strategic plan for attacking your job search. From updating your resume to refining your networking skills, they’ve got you covered. Think of them as your career makeover partner, guiding you through a seamless transition. 

Or let’s say you’ve been in the same company for a few years and are hoping for a promotion into a leadership role. An executive coach could work with you to evaluate and hone your executive presence, identify opportunities both inside and outside of your workplace where you can demonstrate your authority, and help you level up your leadership game.

So how do you find the right person to work with? Start by researching coaches in your industry on platforms like LinkedIn, or explore online coaching platforms like BetterUp and WRK/360. You can also ask around at industry events, conferences, or workshops where coaches often hang out.

Once you identify someone you’d like to consider working with, schedule a consultation — it’s like grabbing a coffee to see if you click. Discuss your goals, their approach, and see if it feels like a good fit. Ask for client testimonials or case studies to check their track record. Think of it as doing your due diligence. And if you want more info, you can check out this article for extra insights on how and when to choose a coach. 

The Mentor

Wouldn’t it be great to have a career guide who’s been there? That’s the essence of a mentor — someone with a treasure trove of career experience, both successes and setbacks, ready to share their lessons learned. Imagine reaching out to this wise person for valuable advice, constructive feedback, organizational know-how, inspiration and encouragement. 

Here’s the key. For this mentor-mentee relationship to flourish, there has to be openness and honesty on both sides. It’s like having a heart-to-heart with a trusted friend who genuinely cares about your success. The cool part? Most mentors do this out of the goodness of their hearts and see it as an opportunity to give back.

Key benefits include:

Wisdom transfer. Mentors share valuable insights and lessons learned from their own career journeys.

Networking. They can introduce you to valuable connections within their networks.

Longevity. Mentorship often develops into a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.

Mentorship can take various forms, ranging from formal arrangements within organizations to informal relationships developed through networking or personal connections. Mentors may be found in diverse settings, including the workplace, educational institutions, community organizations, or social circles.

Let’s say you’re a working mom who’s constantly juggling, with a goal of leveling up to a leadership role without dropping any balls. Cue the potential mentor — another working mom, a seasoned player in the senior management game.

This mentor is your go-to guru. At regularly scheduled meetups (which can be in person or virtual), you’ll have the opportunity to ask your questions. And she’s all about spilling the secrets on networking, building a supportive team, and mastering the corporate maze. 

At the same time, mentorship is a 2-way relationship. Show your mentor you have their back by demonstrating interest in their lives and sharing information, news or insights that will help them in their own roles. 

Finding the perfect mentor is like searching for your career confidante. Sometimes a mentorship relationship develops naturally. But if you need to actively seek one, start off by spotting the stars in your organization or industry whose career stories vibe with your goals. Look for those mentors who not only possess qualities you admire but also have the time to invest in your mentorship journey.

If you’re aiming for an in-house mentor, hit up internal networking events, mentorship programs, or affinity groups. And if you’re looking for someone outside your current company, platforms like LinkedIn, industry events, and your alumni network can be treasure troves for finding potential mentors. There are also established organizations that can match you with a mentor — you can find them at!

Once you’ve found your desired mentor match, graciously ask them for a 30-minute coffee or video chat, taking care to clearly and succinctly explain why you’re seeking their wisdom and how your needs and interests align with their expertise. In this first meeting, ask how they achieved [whatever it is you’d like to emulate] and listen. If the vibes are good during this first meeting, you can ask for another… and eventually suggest making it a regular gig, like a catch-up every month. 

For more details, dive into this article for an extra dose of mentorship insight. 

The Champion

Ever heard of champions or sponsors? They’re like your personal hype squad, actively cheering for your success both in public and behind the scenes. These amazing folks use their influence to strategically place seasoned professionals — like you — in the perfect spot at just the right time.

Why? Because they’ve seen you in action, tackling situations like a pro, and knocking goals out of the park with the perfect approach and timing. They have you on their radars and when the time’s right, they’re ready to sing your praises as the perfect candidate for that coveted project, role, or promotion. Isn’t it awesome to have someone out there actively rooting for your success? We think so too! 

Here’s why having a champion is crucial:

Visibility. Champions promote your achievements, ensuring you get the recognition you deserve.

Opportunity Matching. Because they’re at the table where new initiatives are discussed, they tell you about related opportunities for advancement and how to go get ’em.

Advocacy. They actively recommend you for plum projects or roles.

While coaches focus on goal setting and skill development, and mentors provide guidance based on personal experiences, champions actively advocate for an individual’s success. Champions are particularly known for their public support and proactive efforts in promoting the interests and achievements of the person they champion. 

Let’s say you’re a determined software engineer with your eyes set on a leadership role. Sarah, a respected senior manager, has noticed your great work in the past. You decide to reach out, sharing your career goals. Sarah’s not just impressed; she becomes your advocate. Because she’s in the room where the decisions are made, she recommends you for key projects and even offers valuable pointers along the way. Thanks to Sarah’s sponsorship, you land that coveted leadership position.

Finding your real-life champion can be an organic process, where your good work catches the eye of someone influential in your organization. Or it can take some intentionality. 

If you’re in the latter camp, start out by keeping an eye out for leaders who recognize potential and have a history of supporting others. Look for the well-connected and respected ones within your organization — ideally those with the influence to make things happen. They’re the ones you want in your corner.

Now, the key. Do good work and make it visible to them. Take on impactful projects and ensure your achievements are on their radar.

Engage with these potential sponsors. Seek their advice on challenges and get feedback on your work. It’s about building a connection and letting them see your potential.

You’re the architect of finding and securing the right champions. Once you’ve got them, keep them in the loop. Provide all the info they need to champion you in meetings and negotiations that take place behind closed doors.

For more insights, check out this article.

Why Women Should Actively Seek Career Support

We all know that women are ambitious and just as dedicated to their careers as men are. But we also know that there are hurdles that women in particular need to jump over in order to achieve the same upward mobility. McKinsey’s recent Women in the Workplace report points out the typical broken ladder and glass ceiling moments — women stuck in junior roles, feeling overqualified, and notably underrepresented at the C-suite level, where only one in four leaders are women, and women of color represent just one in 16.

Focusing on leadership readiness with a coach, making good use of a mentor’s tangible advice and contacts, and having the internal support of a respected sponsor can help you ascend through the typical trouble spots. And as you do so, consider being that mentor or champion for a woman who’s your junior.

Because here’s the coolest part. This is not just about individual growth. By having these awesome figures in your corner — and by being that awesome figure for an up-and-comer — you’re personally contributing toward building a workplace that mirrors diversity, counters historical gender imbalances… and experiences greater profitability as a result.


More articles like this: