What's The Difference Between Mentoring and Coaching - Let's Clear Things Up

Published June 11, 2020

Every now and then, we all hit a rough patch in our careers. The work becomes monotonous, our growth rate flattens out, and we just aren’t sure how to shake things up in a meaningful, productive way. But the good news is, you don’t have to know how.

What's The Difference Between Mentoring and Coaching - Let's Clear Things Up

In these instances, you can lean on someone else — someone who’s been there, done that — to help you get where you want to be.

In this article, we’ll explore the similarities and differences between coaching and mentoring: two absolutely vital lifelines in the world of career development.

What is career coaching?

Career coaching is a targeted, purposeful relationship between a student and a coach. The coach will come up with a plan to help you advance and improve in your career, and then run you through a series of practices and lessons to help you achieve it.

Unlike reading articles, books, or experimenting yourself through trial-and-error, coaching provides you with experienced and specific feedback. A coach can address your exact needs and goals, rather than providing general guidance.

For this reason, career coaching is a great option for those looking to face new challenges and make progress when they’re stuck in a rut. Coaches are trained to look for factors that are halting your progress, and help you overcome those hurdles.

What does a career coach do?

When you first meet with a career coach, they’ll likely spend some time getting to know you. They want to know about your strengths and weaknesses, your long- and short-term goals, and your experience level.

With this information, your career coach will create a personalized program to help you grow where you need it most. The thing to remember when working with a career coach is that it’s their job to challenge you. If you’re looking for a quick and easy solution to advancing your career, coaching isn’t it. They’ll seek out your weaknesses and push you to improve, which requires your active involvement and absolute willingness to work.

What is career mentoring?

Similar to career coaching, career mentoring involves seeking out an experienced individual to help you improve and grow in your career. But, unlike coaching, a mentor’s focus is primarily on sharing knowledge.

Mentors are individuals with years of experience in an area. Maybe they’ve undergone dramatic career changes themselves, or made it to the top of their sector — wherever and whatever they’ve done in life, their choice to become a mentor means they’re ready to share what they’ve learned with others.

Chances are, you’ve already had a mentor or two to guide you along the way. It could have been the person who trained you, or a more experienced colleague who took you under her wing when you were just starting out. There have likely been times when you were a mentor to someone else — maybe without even realizing it!

But there are dedicated professional mentors out there, too, either mentoring as a job, or just in their spare time.

What does a career mentor do?

A mentor typically develops a close, long-lasting relationship with the person they’re mentoring (the mentee). This rapport is essential, as it serves as the foundation for the questions, lessons, and pieces of knowledge shared between the two parties.

Career mentors consider your current position and look for ways to help you improve as a professional. This will likely include practical skills, but it might also involve broader considerations like company culture, individuals you should add to your network, and the behind-the-scenes workings of your sector.

In other words, a career mentor provides insights from their seasoned perspective. This provides the mentee with more experience, skills, confidence, and understanding of not just their job, but_ their role in the industry. _

Career mentor vs. coach: what’s the difference?

It’s a good question.

The definitive difference between coaching and mentoring can be a bit murky, as the two are so similar on the surface. However, they’re not quite the same.

Coaching is a much more pragmatic, focused approach to learning. It doesn’t always come from someone who has directly relevant experience, as their role is more of a teacher than of a professional in your field. Coaches tend to focus more on goals and measurable progress — getting you from A to B — rather than on their relationship with you. As such, coaching is usually a much shorter process than mentoring.

Mentoring, on the other hand, is much more like a student-teacher relationship. This is someone you will get to know, who will answer your tough questions and raise questions you hadn’t considered. Mentors are also professionals first, which means that their lessons and advice will be more precise and in-depth. For example, a coach will help you improve your networking skills, while a mentor will introduce you to important people in your field.

Coaching vs. mentoring: which is right for you?

When considering coaching versus mentoring, it’s important to remember that both are beneficial, and they’re not mutually exclusive. You would likely benefit most by having a career coach as well as a career mentor.

That said, most people are likely looking for a coach or a mentor. If you want quick, short-term growth that will give you a leg up in your career, then a coach is likely the way to go. However, if you want long-term growth — conversations that will set you up to succeed not just today, but well into the future as well — then a mentor is who you need.

Mentorships require more work and participation on the part of the mentee, but the rewards are richer and longer-lasting.

How to find a career mentor

Decided to go for a career mentor? Good call. Here’s how you find one:

Go where your mentors would go

Being in the right place, at the right time, is the most effective way to meet anyone in your career. So try to imagine where you would meet the kind of mentor you’re looking for, and go there — it’s that easy!

For example, if you wanted to study under a professional developer, you might use Meetup to join a programming group in your area or attend a developers’ convention. If the person you would like to have as a mentor works in the same workplace, look for ways to join projects that they’re involved with.

The same thinking applies when looking for a mentor online. Are there forums where potential mentors would be engaging?

Reach out to groups you’re already involved with

Similarly, you can find mentors at events and in groups that you’re already a part of. If you participate in some sort of club, organization, or convention related to your field, then there’s a pretty good chance that a mentor figure sits waiting in the wings!

You can even go beyond organized groups and look to unlikely sources. Maybe you have friends or family who know someone that could mentor you, or maybe one of them could even act as a mentor? You could also look to your college alumni for support.

The strategy here is to use your pre-existing connections to uncover a new connection. If you already have a network at your disposal, use it — that’s networking 101!

Find your career mentor with MentorCruise

But for a direct line to your future tech mentor, look no further than MentorCruise.

We’ve taken the hardest part of mentorship — finding a mentor — and made it simple. MentorCruise hosts mentors of all backgrounds and fields so you can find the teacher that’s right for you.

Meet your mentor, today.