Mentors, sponsors, and networks increase your chances of having a successful career. Mentors provide valuable guidance and advice on career alternatives, while sponsors support candidates selected for highly desirable roles by serving as a reference that they can perform well in positions of increasing responsibility and importance. Networking increases the number of people who are familiar with your abilities and is a powerful way to sustain and enhance your reputation and circle of influence. Networking is about making the right connections and building beneficial relationships. In this article, we showcase how the combination of mentoring, sponsoring, and networking produces advisors who can enable us to have a rewarding and successful professional career. We share our three-component system for optimizing your chances of career success.

  • Mentoring and the "Critical Listening" model: Intelligent questioning, ranking of options or preferences, and attentive listening are used during mentoring sessions. The balance between these modes as you progress through your career from fresh graduate to mid-career to experienced professional. This model includes practical examples to guide you in your approach mentoring loops whether for either the first or for the nth time with the aim of maximizing the value you can gain from mentoring.

  • Sponsoring and the "BET" model: BET is our acronym for Building a Network, Equal Priorities, and Tactics (BET). We explain how individuals can acquire and tactically leverage sponsors throughout their careers. The approaches of sponsors and protégées evolves with career stage, that changes priorities and focus.

  • Networking Development and Optimization: Networking for mentoring and sponsoring is essential to career success. A diverse network enhances innovation and problem solving. We benefit from both deep and shallow connections. Networking built on a foundation of reciprocity includes an exchange of mutually beneficial information that establishes long-lasting professional relationships. Methods to diagnose and address network gaps help professionals to achieve career objectives. Strong networking skills build collaborative relationships that add value for both one's career and employer.

Understanding how to maximize the value of mentoring, sponsoring, and networking is essential to career success. We encourage self-analyses throughout your career and provide guidelines on how to leverage mentors and sponsors and utilize best practices to expand your professional network.

In an era where COVID has drastically changed how most of us work, understanding how to thrive with these three key instruments for career success is challenging, given the additional hurdle of having to do it in a virtual ecosystem with fewer or no opportunities to meet face to face. This article raises awareness and provides practical guidance for individuals on building beneficial relationships from mentoring, sponsoring, and networking. Keeping networks alive and strong in a reduced mobility world requires new strategies.

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