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Moving your career forward takes support.

If you are of a certain age, you may be wondering why I am writing to you about Steve Martin and John Candy. As much as I love a classic 80’s movie, this is not where I am going with the reference. The topic of mentorship is a popular one. There is enough data and research that shows the positive impact mentorship can have on a career trajectory to sink a ship. We are no longer debating the importance of mentorship. The conversation is shifting towards the nuanced difference in types of mentoring. The mentor v. the sponsor v. the coach v. the squad.  What does it all mean?!

Related [Forbes, Mentorship Is Key To Career Success For Young Professionals]

Here at Fringe, we like to think of careers are a road trip. Things happen all the time that you aren’t expecting. You get favorable weather, or you are hit by a massive storm. This analogy works for these career guides as well. Check out our latest blog post, where we explore the types of mentors and give our top communication tips for each.


Both the coach and the mentor are taking a car ride with you. A coach is your navigation support. “Here are the routes, which do you think will be best?” Coaches are asking questions that help you to think critically about the right path. Mentors, on the other hand, are pulling from past experience. “When I took this path, this road was the fastest.” It is important to remember that a mentor’s past experience is extremely valuable but it does not represent a singular path to the goal. Good mentors get this and will uncover how you can achieve your goals in a way that is unique to you.

TIP: Define the terms of your communication with coaches and mentors up front. Including, how you prefer to receive constructive feedback and what the limits of your communications will be. What is on and off the table in your conversations.


A sponsor accelerates your career journey. They say – “Hey, why are you in that car, jump on this jet plane!” They do this in many ways, the most common being introductions, connections, and referrals. Sponsors are less common that mentors and can take years to cultivate. Because a sponsor is putting their reputation on the line they must have trust in your competency and your character. It is important not to rush these relationships.

TIP: Never assume that your sponsor will do something for you. Be sure to ask clearly how you can support them so they can support you. If you are asking them to make an email introduction, be clear about what should be in that email and offer to draft it for them!


The latest craze in career support is the squad. When you work with a squad, your support group expands, reaches different areas of expertise, or even industries. This moves you off the road and onto the railroad tracks. Not quite the accelerator that a sponsor is, a squad gives you support in numbers! Cultivating a squad is important. Squads need to be aligned with values, communication style, and objective. This is, of course, true of mentors and sponsors as well but is much more difficult to coordinate with a group.

TIP: As with any group, communication can get muddled in even the best squad. Decide the terms of your conversations up front so there can be clarity for everyone. Another key tip for squads is to clearly and openly discuss confidentiality. With a group, it is even more important to know what can and cannot be shared to keep everyone comfortable with open dialogue.

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