Coaching vs. Mentoring: What’s the Difference?

There are two terms that people use often in the professional world: coach and mentor. Most people think the two are the same, but there are some key differences between them that you should know if you’re looking for someone to help with your career direction.

So, what’s the difference?

#1: Needs

Whether you pursue a coach or a mentor is determined by your needs. A coach typically is hired to address a specific set of issues that you or your business is facing. The coaching relationship typically ends when the issues have been resolved, making coaches more suitable for the short-term.

If you’re looking for long-term guidance on a variety of topics, you’re probably more likely to need a mentor. Mentors can be compensated, but are usually simply non-paid relationships you make through networking with a more experienced individual in your field. This person can help answer your questions, give you advice, and give you connections to others in the industry.

#2: Relationship

A coach’s relationship with an individual tends to be more formal than that of a mentor. Because of this, coaches will usually have a set meeting time with you, have certain measurable goals for you to work on, and will focus on one specific aspect of your business. This relationship will provide you direct access to an expert, though this person’s expertise will be limited by their paid hours and area of knowledge.


A mentor, however, is more of an informal relationship. Because mentors are mostly unpaid, they’re interested in helping you because they believe in you as a professional, not because of what you can do for them. Mentor-mentee relationships are mostly driven by the initiative of the mentee. Checking in with your mentor occasionally will allow them to track your progress in a less structured way that will give you broad, higher-level advice. The casual nature of this relationship means that your mentor is more accessible to you, even if your conversations aren’t focused on one thing in particular.

#3: Results

Many coaches start their contracts by setting forth goals, both for their own work and for that of the professional they’re coaching. While some coaches work on a set time span, others will work with you until those goals are reached, or at least until the key performance indicators are improved. The end result of a coaching relationship should feel more like a finished project where you were guided to the outcome by the coach’s help.

Mentors, on the other hand, do not have such a structured relationship and will not produce as many measurable changes as a coach would. You are the result of a good mentor relationship, and your career’s success is the best measure for results. Many mentors will continue mentoring their proteges for years. This gives them the chance to watch you grow and achieve in a way coaches simply can’t.

Essentially, coaches and mentors can both help you in your career path, though they do so differently. Consider carefully which you will seek out, and you’ll be on your way to a wonderful professional relationship.
Finding a coach or a mentor can be hard, but we’ve got a network of some of the brightest business minds in the area. If you’re looking to get a new start in your career, apply to our workshop today.