Mentoring vs Coaching – Differences and Benefits

mentoring vs coaching

If you are seeking support for career development, you may be wondering which is the best option: mentoring vs coaching. Let’s explore the difference between a coach and a mentor so you can decide which is best for you.

Coach Definition

A coach helps you grow your mindset and develop your skills to handle challenges or achieve your goal.

There are different types of coaches. A career coach supports you in professional goals and aspirations. However, since your professional development will be impacted by other areas of your life, you may also need support there.

A life coach helps clients with all areas of their life, but doesn’t specialize in any one. They will help you identify the areas you want to work on, develop coaching goals, and develop a strategy to help you achieve those goals.

I am a career AND life coach, so I can help you with both areas. Often, clients come to me for career coaching but hen realize the work is much bigger and broader, and we end up working on life issues as well.

Mentor Definition

Mentorship is a long-term relationship between a mentor and a mentee. The mentor offers the mentee guidance, advice, and support to empower them to grow and face challenges in their career. A mentor share their skills, knowledge, connections and experiences to help the mentee grow and develop in their career.

Mentoring vs Coaching: Differences


As a coach, I hold space for clients to do their best thinking, guiding them gently.  mentor would be more proactive “hey, here’s someone I want you to meet” and more directive. A mentor is guiding you into an area she knows; a coach is supporting your exploration of the area.

A mentor directives to the mentee by suggesting the best course of action in different scenarios, giving feedback, and raising awareness on areas of improvement. The mentee may ask questions to get support or assistance in a given area.

A mentor may also help to accelerate a mentee’s career growth by introducing them to key stakeholders in the industry or offering them opportunities to network with people in their industry or similar roles.

Contrastingly, in a coaching session, the client talks more. A professional coach leads the conversation by asking questions to help you reflect, confront your belief system, and find solutions for yourself. However, they may offer suggestions or challenge your views. They may also instruct you through various exercises to enable you to find answers, overcome challenges, and shape your mindset.

Nature of Relationship

The relationship between a coach is formal and structured. You consultatively agree on a meeting schedule that you adhere to. Usually, the coach and the client agree to the number of sessions and time frame of the coaching program ahead of time.

A mentoring relationship is informal; it is like a career friendship. You build a personal relationship with your mentor and agree on session timing and location when the need arises. That said, it is best to establish how frequently you meet and set an agenda for each meeting.

Time Frame

Coaching is short-term, while mentoring is long-term. A coaching program can last 3 to 12 months compared to mentoring, which can last several years or even decades. Some mentorship relationships are lifelong. Nevertheless, you may agree with your coach to make your relationship long-term.


There is no certification required to be a mentor. The main distinctive characteristic of a mentor is that they have extensive knowledge and skills in a given specific industry or role to pass down to a mentee. However, mentoring, coaching, and leadership skills training can help mentors better support and guide their mentees.

two business people meeting

In the case of mentoring within a company, the organization may have a training program to equip senior leaders and employees with mentoring skills. Mentees may also be trained on how to make the most of the mentorship program.

Although there are no governing bodies for coaches, a good coach should have a coaching skills certification in the area of specialization. However, they do not have to have experience in your industry or role. Their primary responsibility is not to handhold you in your position but to help you build a mindset and develop techniques to make the right decisions in your career.


Coaching is goal-driven. It aims at achieving the outcome you defined at the beginning of the coaching program. The outcome is measurable and specific, e.g., to improve confidence, work on particular limiting beliefs, improve presentation skills, etc. On the other hand, the goal of a mentoring relationship is to promote the mentee’s overall career growth and development.


Generally, mentorship is voluntary. A mentor commits to supporting a mentee in their career growth without expecting monetary compensation. Most mentors find fulfillment in mentoring voluntarily as a way to pay it forward or give back to society.

Coaches charge for their services. Rates vary from coach to coach and may be per hour, per session, or collective for the entire program.

Benefits of Mentoring and Coaching

  • Both mentoring and coaching support you to grow and achieve your full potential by exposing you to new perspectives and developing various skills.
  • They can help you to develop skills such as interpersonal skills, communication skills, leadership skills, and confidence.
  • They boost your morale and motivation toward achieving your goals.
  • They improve your professional performance and prepare you for more senior roles.
  • They help clarify and set goals for your career progression and devise a strategy for achieving


Although sometimes the terms coach and mentor are used interchangeably, they are distinct roles. A mentor is a hired partner who comes in to help you in developing specific skills or solve a particular issue to promote your career growth and development. Your engagement is for a pre-defined time frame to achieve a particular outcome.

A mentor is like an older brother or sister, or trusted auntie or uncle. Your relationship is less formal and structured but still respectful. The mentor imparts their skills, experience, and knowledge to you to promote your overall growth.

You can work with a mentor and a coach for optimal career growth and personal development.

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