Author: Chris Gerlacher

Use Toxin-Free Paint and Create a Healthier Home

Picture this: you?ve just moved into your new home. All of the walls and furniture are bright builder?s white and you can’t wait to paint over it. But the paint you’re about to use probably isn’t toxin-free paint. The fresh-paint smell that makes you feel proud after a long day of painting is not necessarily good for your health.

What makes Paint ?Toxic??

Most store-brand paints have chemicals called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Leading with the word ?volatility? makes these chemicals sound scarier than they are. All it means is that some of the chemicals in the paint evaporate in a normal room. The VOCs in your paint are what make them so easy to paint with and part of why the colors look as rich and bright as they do.

But many VOCs are known carcinogens. If you smear those brightly-colored VOCs all over your walls, you probably won?t notice the effects immediately. However, if your house is poorly ventilated or you use a lot of paint at once, you may feel headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Less irritating paints only result in eye, throat, and skin irritation. In more extreme cases, overexposure to these paint fumes could lead to liver damage, kidney damage, and even contribute to the development of cancer. If that wasn’t enough reason to switch to toxin-free paint, there’s a great environmental impact, too.

Related: Go toxin-free without breaking the bank

The Environment Cares which Paint I use?

Fine, it may not actually care. But it does notice. When high-VOC paint reacts with the nitrogen in the air, it depletes the ozone layer and contributes to urban smog. One household might not make a difference, but how many people have just painted new homes for their families? How many have just decided to repaint their homes? All of this adds up to impact our planet. Thankfully, there are options available that benefit the people in your home and reduce pollutants released into the environment. More and more people are switching to toxin-free paint.

Related: Why this solar company founder is starting a credit union

What alternatives do I have for toxin-free paint?

There are plenty of paint brands that you can choose from that have low or zero-VOC paints. For starters, you can visit Home Depot?s page that shows you their toxin-free paint options. Home Depot is a massive distributor, so if you can find it there, that’s probably the easiest way to go.

Other companies produce toxin-free paint exclusively. ECOS Paints produces zero-VOC paints, wood varnishes, primers, and stains. They even have pet-friendly paints to help keep your pets safe and healthy.

If you don?t want to look into specialty brands, Behr, Sherwin-Williams, and Benjamin Moore offer low and zero-VOC paints. All of these paints seem to perform just as well as conventional paints, so you don?t have to sacrifice?paint quality. Even better, most of these paints don?t cost very much more than a $30-gallon drum from Home Depot. It?s a win-win!

Related: The ABC’s of sustainable style

There?s a BIG Caveat though

Toxin-free paint does have fewer harmful fumes than traditional paints. However, the colorant that’s added to it probably doesn?t. When you go to Home Depot to pick out the right shade of lavender for your room, you?ll get a base color and an additive that will change the paint color to your perfect shade of lavender. A lot of times, that additive has those same VOCs that you tried to avoid.

If you want your paint to really live up to your wildest expectations, you need to make sure that everything you use is VOC-free. Don?t spend all that time and energy keeping your home healthy with conscious choices, only to throw it away because you thought the slightly lighter lavender would make the room look bigger. Read the fine print so you know what?s going in your paint and, more importantly, in your home.

Related: 7 ways to make your home a sustainable source of income

Now you?re a Healthy + Conscious Homeowner

Imagine that you’ve just spent three hours painting your walls. Now your home can look good and you can feel good about your hard work. Choosing to be a conscious consumer doesn?t mean sacrificing quality or your wallet. It simply means being mindful about how you spend your money and the impact those purchases have on the people around you and our planet. There are new conscious products being developed every day, whether it?s the paint on your walls or the credit card in your wallet. What other purchases can you make that will make the world a better place?

Related: How to save for a down payment on your home


 

?Photo by?Bench Accounting?

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How to Incite Change, even as a Small Shareholder

Have you ever wanted to influence Verizon’s decision on net neutrality or McDonald’s recycling policy but didn’t know how? Social media and petitions only get you so far. There is another way to have real impact.

If you?ve ever looked at a large corporation?s power, it may seem impossible to nudge them in a socially-conscious direction. Sure, Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JP Morgan Chase are getting together to work on healthcare. That?s amazing, but how can you influence other companies who aren?t taking those kinds of initiatives? You don’t have to be Google’s largest shareholder to be influential. Your stock ownership and proxy votes could do just that.

How does stock ownership work?

Publicly-traded companies offer pieces of ownership, or shares, in their companies in exchange for money. Selling pieces of their ownership ?pie,? their stock, allows them to raise money as a corporation. Each share may only be a small piece of a company?s total ownership ?pie?, but people with a lot of money can buy a lot of shares in one company.

Once you own a share (or many shares) in one company, you might get paid a little money for each share you hold (these are called dividends). You can also hold onto your shares for a long time and wait for the value of the company to skyrocket. Then you can sell your shares at a higher price than when you bought them and make some money that way, too. Most people understand company ownership as a financial tool for shareholders, but company ownership can include some other perks, too.

Related: introduction to investing

Your Voting Rights as a Shareholder

Some stocks include voting rights, and this is where you can really create your impact. Large publicly traded companies will have boards that they have to answer to. The largest shareholders usually sit on these boards. While you may own .0001% of a company?s stock, these board members may hold 5-15%. The board is the group that provides oversight to the CEO and drives the company in a direction that they believe is best. They will periodically call meetings where they will vote on important issues like CEO changes or new sustainability goals. However, not every shareholder can meet to vote on these issues every time, and now, almost 400 words into this article, we?ve gotten to why you (yes, you personally) are so vitally important.

Related: making real money with sustainable investing

Every Vote Counts!

If shareholders can?t attend a shareholder meeting, they can cast proxy votes instead. Proxy votes are shareholder votes that are cast remotely outside of the shareholder meeting. They are sent to every shareholder with voting rights, so they can vote on the issues that?ll be covered at the shareholder meeting. These may seem like tedious things to take care of, but they can be tremendously important.

Let’s say you care about net neutrality and you own a few shares in Verizon. You can make your voice heard through your right to cast a proxy vote.??You may only hold a few shares of common stock, but each one of those shares may be worth one vote each. Your vote could be the tipping point on important shareholder issues. If you?ve purchased company stock and you?ve got voting rights that come with it, you can vote with more than just your dollars. You can literally cast votes!

Only 29% of retail investors use their power to vote on shareholder proposals. Yet more and more investors are realizing the power they have to impact change through the investments they own. It’s time to make your voice heard.

Related: the new landscape of sustainable investing

But I own a tiny sliver of a GIANT pie!

A lot of you reading this, if you even own stocks, may not be massive shareholders who wield material power over a CEO. However, there may be a bunch of other shareholders like you who own tiny pieces of ownership. Collectively, the tiny shareholders may make up a relevant piece of the pie and carry weight on important issues. You may own .01% of a company, but if there are 5,000 other people who share your values and your ownership percentage. Suddenly, you all own 50% of the company and can vote your values.

Even if your vote doesn’t win a majority vote, you can get the board’s attention and create real change.

Case in point: McDonald’s held a shareholder meeting in 2011 to vote on whether they should eliminate styrofoam cups. Even though the proposal was supported by 30% of shareholders, this demonstrated huge acceptance for an environmental proposal. The result: McDonald’s launched a pilot program to eliminate styrofoam cups.

Related: Read our article on whether an sustainable roboadvisor is right for you

Back in the real world though?

You won?t have 50% ownership unless you?re putting some big money into a startup. If a company even offers 50% of it?s company to the public, large financial firms will take the big pieces and leave slivers for the rest of us to squabble over. However, there could still be 1-10% of the company that?s ripe for squabbling. That?s still a significant piece of the pie in tight votes. The few hundred stocks of Google could be the tie-breaker that decides on a major sustainability initiative. You wouldn?t want to throw that opportunity away, would you?

Remember, getting critical mass of votes, even if they are not the majority vote, will get the board’s attention. Boards hate headline risk. If consumers start posting their views via proxy votes (which is their right as owners in the company), the brands will listen.

Related: what we can learn from cheapskates on the internet (probably the same ones buying stocks with voting rights.)

The Future of Business

Sustainability is the future of business. As consumers care more deeply about the impact they have with their purchases, businesses are moving to meet those demands. Industries like green energy are young and growing, making them breeding grounds for entrepreneurs and promising opportunities for investors. The link in my inbox that spawned this article actually lists upcoming shareholder votes on a wide range of sustainability and ethics initiatives. If you or someone you know has voting rights in these companies, they can cast proxy votes on these issues.

If you have even a passing interest in investing, you should understand the power of shareholder votes (aka proxy votes). You may not be the one shareholder who owns half the company. But you may be a part of the group of shareholders that turns the vote. Don?t throw those proxy votes away. Many votes can be cast online, so it’s convenient. Shareholder votes can influence big companies to do right by the planet and the people living on it.


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How to Work Sustainability into your Business Idea

If you?re even thinking about starting your own business, good for you. Nothing is harder than figuring out how to start a new venture, and nothing is more rewarding than getting your own paycheck. You might even want to start a business that supports great causes and promotes sustainability. And you can do that. There are plenty of successful companies that do good without compromising the bottom line. If you want your social good business to succeed, you need to honestly think through these three questions:

  1. Is your business important to people?
  2. Can you deliver on your promises?
  3. Can you make money?

Related: Check out Prosperity and get inspired by companies that promote People, Planet, Purpose and Profit?

Your Business must be Important to People

Just like any other business, your company needs customers. There are two different types of customers for a social-good business: the ones who love you for your business and the ones who love you for your social impact. Most of the people who walk through your door will be the first kind, so you need to offer them something that?s worth paying for and helps you accomplish your social good at the same time.

Georgetown, a Republican city in Texas, became the first in the state to commit to running on 100% renewable energy. The big sell didn’t come from the environmental impact it could have. It came from the lower energy prices and the greater price stability over the next 20 years. How’s that for some amazing benefits? Think about how you can accomplish your social good while running a successful business. Your social good benefit may not be the big seller, but your business can provide it in tandem with other benefits.

Related: Make your home a sustainable source of income.

You Must be able to Deliver

You might have an amazing idea that will change the world and give customers substantial value. But it won?t matter if you can?t deliver on your promises. Think about your idea and make sure that you can realistically make the leap from idea to successful venture.

One of my favorite horror stories is the Coolest Cooler. The Coolest Cooler was one of the most highly funded Kickstarter campaigns ever. It had all of these cool built-in features like Bluetooth speakers, a blender, a bottle-opener, a hidden compartment, and a bunch of other cool features (sweet, right?). It raised $13 million in 2014. But after only a third of the Kickstarter backers got their coolers, the Department of Justice got involved. Three years later, 20,000 people were still waiting for their coolers.

If you have a great business idea that people are willing to throw money at, you have to make sure that you can create and deliver it to them. That means your solar powered electric go carts idea had better be thought all the way out before you go ask for money.

Related: Read our article on the new landscape of sustainable impact investing.

You must Get Paid

Starting a business costs money and, if you?re like most entrepreneurs, you?ll probably have to ask someone to help fund operations. You have to accept one hard truth if you?re fundraising: No one will give you money if they don?t think they?ll make it back.?That means you have to work out the numbers to make sure that your great idea also makes business sense.

Tom?s Shoes is a great example of a business that is profitable and promotes great causes. Some of you probably wear Toms, but do you know why you pay so much for them? Part of the shoe price covers Tom?s One for One program which provides help to someone in need with every purchase. Tom?s used to just give a pair of shoes to someone with every purchase, but now they?ve partnered with charities that provide clean water, restore eyesight, and prevent bullying. If Toms can make almost $400 million a year with a business model that has purpose, creates a positive impact for society, and makes a profit, then you too can combine your passion with positive impact.

Tom?s Shoes can make money and give back to the world at the same time because they built it into their business and their prices. You can too if you think your business all the way through.

Learn more about companies that are doing well while they do good. Check out the B Corporation movement?and 1% for the Planet. Both of these communities certify for-profit companies that have positive impact on our society and the environment.

Related: Read our article on going toxin free without breaking the bank.

Sustainability?is the Future?

Do you know why massive companies like Microsoft, Uber, or FaceBook became so huge? They were early. They dove into industries that were either non-existent or very young, which gave them plenty of room to grow and become the dominant players in those industries. Sustainable business is a young and growing trend that your idea could grow to dominate. Think of all of the opportunities and new ventures that are there to create positive impact in the world. Imagine being the entrepreneur who seizes those opportunities.

Business can be powerful force for good. It can promote sustainability?and?create wealth and value. Whatever business you decide to start, know that you can both do well and do good. You just have to plan for it and execute on that plan.


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7 Ways to Make your Home a Sustainable Source of Income

A home is such a valuable resource. It can become a hub of sustainable technology or it could break down barriers between people and create communities. These seven companies do good for the planet and put money back in your pocket.

1. Lower your Utility Bill and Use Clean Energy

This company is giving our Well Wallet readers $20 off your next power bill just for signing up to support clean energy. Have you ever wanted to power your house with renewable energy without the cost of solar panels??Arcadia Power has your back.?This company uses renewable energy credits to pay your power bill on your behalf.

You link your power bill to their platform, pay them for your power usage, and they will then pay the utility provider using renewable energy credits. So how much does this service cost? Here’s where it gets interesting. Arcadia offers a free package that converts 50% of your utility bill to renewable (aka clean) energy and a premium package that converts 100% of your utility power to clean energy for 1.5c/kWh, which will range from $5-$20 per month depending on home size.?If you want more information before signing up, check out our in-depth review?we did of their services.

You can also set up price alerts, where Arcadia finds you better deals from utility providers in your area. This is especially helpful when providers try to sneak in a higher fee. With Arcadia, you can reduce your monthly utility bill and reduce your carbon footprint.?Make your home greener and get a smaller utility bill, Arcadia is a great company to look into.

2. Get Paid to Save Energy

It?s one thing to save money on your monthly utility bill by using less energy, but how many companies pay you to save energy? OHM Connect pays you to reduce your power output during peak times. You can choose the time that works for you. You?ll get paid based on how much energy you?ve saved during that time, earning you some passive income while you help the planet.

How can a company afford to do that? Energy operators pay OHM to reduce users? energy consumption, which is cheaper and more sustainable than paying power plants to increase production. To get started, signup on their website, connect your phone or electric car, and let OHM earn you cash. To earn even more, get an OHM smart device installed on your wall.?Get paid to make your home greener.?Check them out.

3. Make your House a Home

No house can be called a home without the loving, caring people inside of it. Why not create that feeling and earn some money at the same time? Silvernest is a roommate matching service designed for boomers and empty nesters. Your parents (you?ve moved out by now, right?) can search for roommates and get matched based on in-depth preferences. Silvernest also offers background checks, prepared leases, and a bunch of other services to support good matching.

This is more than just a way for your parents to earn passive income. It keeps retirees in their homes for a longer period of time and creates a community, all while reducing cost. Silvernest helps empty nesters and retirees find the community they need to call their houses homes.

4. Break Down Barriers Between People

A lot of you probably know about AirBnB. They let you rent your home out to people who need places to stay in your area. You can rent out your place for a day, a weekend, or longer. You control the price, your availability, and your guest policy. This is a great way to use one of your assets (your home) to?earn passive income.

But how many of you know the story behind AirBnB?s origins? It?s not just about earning cash on the side: AirBnB’s origin is about creating connection. AirBnB was designed to overcome ?stranger-danger? and create genuine connections in a world-wide community. It?s easy to feel alone behind a cell phone, so it?s even more incredible that there?s an app that relieves that isolation and promotes global people-to-people connection. Sure, you can put some extra money in your pocket, but AirBnB?s real value comes from turning stranger?s houses into communal homes. They have the People part of People & Planet down pat.

5. Make Money Recycling your Old Electronics, CDs and DVDs

How many of us keep a drawer of old electronics that we never use? The truth is that it is difficult and expensive to recycle electronics. Not anymore.?Decluttr?buys your old electronics like cell phones, plus DVDs, CDs, games and books, then refurbishes them for resale on their online website. When you make a sale and ship your products to their warehouse (for free), you receive your payment the very next day.

They make the process super easy with an app that lets you scan barcodes and get an instant price for your item. And they?ve already paid out $100 million to 3 million happy customers.

This isn?t just a great way to make some extra cash. It?s a great way to recycle and upcycle old electronics, DVDs, and CDs.?You might not have much luck selling your old iPhone 3 on eBay (seriously, remember those?), but Declutter would love to use those spare parts to refurbish a newer product that could be meaningful to someone else.

6. Get Recognized for Recycling

I don?t know about you, but most of us don?t get the recognition we deserve for throwing our aluminum cans into the blue trash can instead of the gray one. Recycle Bank awards you points for sustainable practices that you can redeem for discounts, deals, or donations. Do you separate paper, plastic, and trash in your home? You’ll earn points toward your next discount at eco-friendly and BCorp companies, restaurants, magazines, and even massages and traditional places like Dunkin Donuts. Do you properly dispose of batteries? You?re better than most, AND you’ll earn points toward donations to support environmental education in schools. Turn your home into a money-saving machine and give back to the planet at the same time.

7. Get your own Private Bill Negotiator (for free)

Sometimes when I see how high my utility bill gets, I want to argue my rates down myself. Then I remember how non-confrontational I am and hide under my desk instead. Experts at Billshark will negotiate your monthly rates down for you. You only pay the Sharks if they negotiate a better deal for you. They get a cut of the savings as payment.?If you want your own negotiator for your cable bills, your cell phone bills, or your internet bills, this company will work on your behalf and save you money.

Another reason to like them: their founders worked in the telecommunications industry. That means they know all of the pricing strategy tricks used by big companies. They’re now using their knowledge to help the little guy (us) negotiate better rates. That means they are really good at what they do when it comes to negotiating your bill. Plus, they give back to the community with One-Bill-One-Hour. For every bill they negotiate, they give a child a free hour of financial literacy.

Give Back to People & Planet while Making Money

All of these companies put money back in your pocket, whether they reduce your monthly payments or earn you money. But what really makes these companies so innovative is that they do social good, too. Whether they reduce barriers between people or help you recycle, these companies strive to make the world a better place and help make your house into a home.

Check out our article on How to Turn Your Side Gig into a Tax Cut ?for more advice on saving money!


Photo by?Alvin Engler

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Why Your $70 Hoodie Actually Costs $3,168

Two words: compound interest.

Compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world.

There are two powerful forces that are as essential to finance as gravity is to the universe:

  • Time
  • Compound Interest

The idea of time is straightforward, but compound interest can be confusing to people who are new to the world of finance and money. Understanding compound interest can exponentially increase the amount of money you earn in the bank, and who doesn?t want that? Let me help you wrap your head around how it works so that you can reap the benefits of compound interest and time.

Two Quick Definitions

If you?re really new, here are a few terms to understand. If you know them, then you can skip to the next header.

  • Principle
  • Interest

The principle is how much money you initially throw in the bank. If I go deposit $5,000, then my principle is $5,000.

Interest is how much money you earn from your principle. Interest is always written as a percentage. That percentage is how much more money I get at the end of a certain amount of time from having my principle sit in the bank. For example, if I earn 10% interest per year on my $5,000, then I get another $500 at the end of the year.

So far, we?ve put $5,000 in the bank and earned $500 in interest, because the interest rate is 10% of the $5,000 we put in. Now we have $5,500 in the bank and all we did was drive to the bank a year ago. That sounds great, so what?s the big deal about compound interest?

Compound Interest

Compound interest is interest that you earn on your interest. Let?s keep all the same numbers. You put $5,000 in the bank, earn 10% interest, and after a year you have $5,500 in the bank. If you save that money for one more year with a compound interest rate of 10%, you?ll get 10% on your initial $5,000 PLUS 10% on your $500 interest earnings. That?s another $500 from your principle and an extra $50 from your interest.

I can already see the comments saying ?That?s it? The 8th wonder of the world is worth 50 bucks?? After one year, yeah, it?s only $50. But after 40 years, you?ll have $226,296.28 without touching your money once.

That means if you?re 25 and you put $5,000 in the bank, you don’t put in a penny more, and that money grows at 10% compound interest, you?ll have $226,296.28 waiting for you in your retirement account at 65.

If you?re 20 and you wait until you?re 65, you?ll have $364,452.42. Compound interest?s real value comes with time.

Compound Interest?s Best Friend: Time

Here?s how we jumped from $5,000 to over $200,000. After one year at 10% interest, you get your $5,500. Another year goes by and you earn another $500 from your principle and $50 on that interest.

One more year goes by, and you not only earn $500 from the 10% on your principle, but you also earn $55 from the 10% of your principle interest and 10% of the $50 in interest you earned the year before. Every year, your interest compounds itself and grows year after year. There?s a great online calculator that does all of this for you. So now you?re probably wondering?

How does this work in real life?

A 10% interest rate is great for calculating easy numbers for an article I?ll spend 90 minutes writing, but a real bank will only give you a compound interest rate between 0.1-1.05% per year.?To get the high earnings over time, you have to add money to your account every month. When you do that, both your interest payments and your principle increase. Just adding 10% of your check to your account?every month can have a huge impact on your savings in the future.

Let?s say you get the low end of the stick and get a .1% compound interest rate. If you put $5,000 in the bank and put $300 in that account every month for 40 years, You?ll end up with $152,047.85 in the bank just in time for your retirement account to open. Start earlier and wait 45 years, and you?ll have $170,845.65. That?s almost $19,000 more than the other guy who started saving just five years later.

But you don’t have to settle for 0.1-1.05% in a savings or checking account. You can earn a lot more if you start investing. Investing carries more risk (the value could go up or down in any given year) but your returns could be a lot higher. On average, the S&P 500 has returned 7% since its inception in 1928. The S&P 500 is a broad market index that gives you a high level picture of how the stock market is doing.

Takeaways

The next time you think about buying that $70 hoodie, think about what $70 would be worth in 40 years. At 10% annual interest rate, it’s?$3,168.

In this article, I assumed that you have a retirement account that you?re putting money into and I made it sound like giving up 10% of your monthly check is easy. I know that neither of those things are true for everyone. What you should take away from this anyway is:

  • Small savings over time can make a big impact
  • Time is your friend

Young people have one advantage our parents and grandparents don?t have: time. If you start saving early, you will thank yourself when you reach retirement and have that extra cash waiting for you.

Next Steps

  1. Open a separate savings account and checking account. These accounts are low risk since the interest is pretty much guaranteed. But the interest is low. Even the ones that advertise “high interest” are only high when compared to other savings and checking accounts. Open a separate account anyway. Getting 1% on checking will help your money counteract inflation and gives you a separate bucket of money that you can grow over time (instead of spending it).
  2. Start investing. Investing carries more risk (since the price of the assets you hold can go up or down) BUT the return and compounding effect could be a lot higher than keeping it in a bank. Here’s an easy and friendly way to start investing with investing for as little as $50.

 


Send us your story if you?ve been duped, on the road to financial recovery, conquered your finances, or want to give feedback. Extra points if you know of great conscious brands who are doing good things for People & Planet. Send it to feedback@wellwallet.com

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Why Successful People Have Mentors and Sponsors

The best piece of advice that I’ve received in business school is get a mentor. Mentors help you develop the confidence and skills you need to get ahead. They will be there to support and guide you through challenges in your career. In fact, 80% of CEOs polled by Management Mentors have mentors who have provided career boosts.

But they?re not enough. You also need sponsors.

What?s a sponsor?

A sponsor is someone at the top of the management ladder who advocates for you. They will fight to get you in front of executives, put onto challenging projects, and ultimately help get you promoted.

Why do people take on these roles? Many sponsors and mentors like the idea of giving back. It feels good. But there are also other benefits. Mentorship and sponsorship can also improve their own standing in the organization, because they show that they can work with more junior people and improve overall employee performance.

The two main differences between mentors and sponsors are:

  • Mentors teach you. Sponsors promote you.
  • Mentors can be anywhere. Sponsors are at the top.

Understanding the differences between these two types of people will help you advance your career instead of stagnating.

Mentors help you grow. Sponsors promote you.

Mentors are great for personal and professional development. If you?re unsure about how to develop professional skills to perform better, or how to overcome personal challenges, mentors are your go-to people.

My earliest mentor was actually my mom. As early as elementary school, my mom helped me become a better writer. With what must have been gallons of red ink that she wrote on my papers, she taught me how to write clearly and concisely (?in order to? automatically becomes ?to?). Without her early guidance, I wouldn?t have the writing skills I have today.

In contrast, my first sponsor was my business writing professor. While I was in her class, I wrote an opinion piece that she thought was good enough to get published. She was a professional writer before she became a professor, so I submitted it to the Daily Camera. After six weeks of trying to submit it on my own, she called the editor and helped push my article through. That was the first time someone fought for my writing and that didn?t just boost my confidence. It also got my article published. Surround yourself with people who can teach you and people who can help you get ahead.

Mentors can be anywhere. Sponsors are at the top.

Mentors don?t have to be above you. You can learn from anyone, whether it?s a peer teaching you the rules of the office, or a manager helping you develop professional skills. My first mentor in college was a junior who was studying the same subject that I was interested in. She helped me transition from high school to college, taught me how to interact with my business professors, and made me feel more confident in a completely new place. She helped me develop the skills necessary to connect with and leverage professionals above me later on.

Unlike mentors, sponsors are at the top of the food chain. They are where you want to be one day.?My peer mentor took on a sponsorship role when she recommended me for a consulting gig in South Africa. She had gone through the program the summer before I did, and she pushed to have me accepted for the upcoming summer. I got in and had an amazing experience working in South Africa partly because I had someone who was willing to fight for me. Mentors teach. Sponsors promote.

Are mentors and sponsors different people?

Not necessarily.

You might meet someone who will help you grow and get you promoted. You won?t always get that lucky. Sometimes they?ll be the same person like my peer mentor was for me. Sometimes they?ll be different people, like my mom and business writing professor were for me.

What?s important is that you fill both roles. One isn?t better than the other, but they’re both important for your career.

How do I attract a sponsor?

When you?re a strong performer, you?re ready to catch the attention of a sponsor. Think about who is in the position you want to be in some day. Then, figure out how to get in front of them. Maybe one of your managers knows them well and can get you a meeting. Maybe you’ll have to reach out on your own and ask for projects. However you do it, start making sponsors part of your tribe?at work.

None of this means that mentors aren?t important. Without them, you?d have a harder time finding someone senior to advocate for you. But once you?ve learned enough to become a high performer, you?re ready to “wow” a sponsor.

What’s expected from me?

If you’re lucky enough to get someone who’s willing to mentor or sponsor you, then you should be prepared to secure that relationship.

Do

  • Set expectations?about communication for one another. Ask them how often they would like to stay in touch and their preferred mode of communication. Not everyone likes to text.
  • Set goals together. If your mentor or sponsor knows where you want to be, then they can help you develop skills or connect you with people who can help get you there. Do some up-front research and come prepared with your goals.
  • Be professional. This should go without saying, but no matter how close you get, you’re both still in a professional setting.

Don’t?

  • Don’t use emojis. Seriously. I know people my age who’ve made this mistake. Even if your mentor or sponsor has said they’re ok with it, sticking to text makes you look more professional.
  • Don’t ghost your mentor or sponsor. They have a vested interest in you and want you to succeed.?If it’s not working out, be honest with them and adjust.
  • Don’t forget them. Even when they don’t mentor or sponsor you anymore, they’re still great people to know throughout your career. Keep in touch with them. One day, you could give back to them, too.

Where do I find these people?

Even if your company isn’t pairing you off with someone, you can find a mentor or a sponsor on your own. You should be seeking them out anyway.? Some places to look include:

  • LinkedIn. Find people who you want to be like and start getting to know them. Be sure to explain the value you can provide to them, too. This is a two way street. Start with a short note and ask for 15 minutes of their time.
  • Your personal network. Does your friend’s dad have your ideal job? Start getting to know people or find those who can get you in front of them.
  • Conferences. Events full of people doing what you want to do is a great place to meet mentors and sponsors. Start attending, collecting business cards, and following up with people you’re interested in.

If you begin building relationships with professionals early on, you might find someone with whom you connect. These relationships take work, but they can propel you forward to new heights. Take a chance. It only takes one person to make a huge difference in your career.


Photo by?Hunters Race

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