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Differences Between Coaching And Mentorship

coaching vsmentorship

Many people do not understand the difference between mentorship and coaching. While both are quite important, mentorship goes deep and the relationship lasts long while coaching is a formal relationship, which takes place for a specified period of time. Think of mentorship as a long-lasting friendship in which you get to gain a lot of advice, help, and guidance from your mentor. Coaching, on the other hand, is almost like attending classes to learn about a very specific subject and the relationship you have with your coach is based on what you gain from the coach and how long it takes. While these are the general rules that guide the relationship in mentorship and coaching, there are other more particular differences. Let us discuss what each entails.

What is Mentorship?


A Relationship Between a Mentor and a Mentee is Organic

This is to mean that the relationship is cultivated over a long time and the mentee learns a lot from the mentor. It starts from two people knowing each other closely having a common ground A mentor will guide you in many aspects of your life not just in your career as the relationship is often informal. Most of the time, this is a person you have similar interests with and through their experiences, you can learn a lot.

A Mentor is Like a Role Model

A mentor is someone you look up to for one reason or another. This is someone you can have open conversations with; on different aspects of your life. This means that it cannot be a random person whom you just met and know little or nothing about. It is often a person who mirrors what you might be interested in and this person holds your hand as you grow along.

A Mentor Offers Guidance and Support

A mentor can work with you to find solutions to your problems. They may not have all the answers to your questions but are willing to work with you to find solutions to those problems that they may not understand. However, most of the time, your mentor will often have more experience in a certain field than you do and can, therefore, offer sound advice based on personal experience or from observations.Your mentor can also help you gain access to opportunities that are otherwise out of your reach.

A Mentor Offers Advice on Career and Personal Growth

A mentorship relationship goes beyond advice on how you can grow your career. Since your mentor has a good understanding of you, he or she is likely to offer sound advice on matters that go beyond your career, and this is based on your strengths and weaknesses. They are resourceful and are interested in helping you grow holistically. A mentor will also prepare you for future roles, not just in achieving immediate goals.



Coaching is slightly different from mentorship and the relationship between the person being coached and the coach is inorganic and shortlived. It is mainly transactional and this makes it mechanical. A coach is someone who has experience and expertise in a particular field that you would like to gain knowledge in. Think of it as the relationship between you and your teacher. A coach offers advice only, unlike a mentor who may offer more value through their experiences. So, what are some of the defining characteristics of coaching?

The Relationship is Formal

The relationship between the person being coached and the coach is bound by social norms and rules of engagement. For example, while you can have an evening drink with your mentor to discuss arising issues in your life or career, this would be considered inappropriate when the person is a coach. You will often have to make an appointment to meet a coach at specific times and in specific areas; usually in their offices.

Coaching is Based on Particular Issues of Development

While mentorship may focus on many aspects of your life from career to finances, coaching is specific and focuses on a narrow area. Think of it as having swimming lessons, where your coach strictly focuses on your swimming skills and nothing else.

The Relationship is Short-lived

In the same line, coaching lasts for a short period of time that is very specific, after which the relationship is terminated. During the life of this relationship, you will also pay for the services of the coach. The relationship has a clear focus on helping you grow in certain areas and both you and the coach have to put in a lot of work. Moreover, the relationship is aimed at helping you achieve the set goals within a short time.

Coaching is Structured and Rigid

There are clear goals to be achieved and this means that the relationship is structured in such a way that there is a clear progress towards achieving the goals. There are clear lessons to be learned and there are clear expectations, which are to be met. Even the time when the coaching takes place is structured and does not change easily. The focus is on clear development agendas that are to be achieved at every defined point.

Coaching and mentorship are two different aspects of career growth. While mentorship involves some kind of hand-holding, coaching involves an active process of imparting specific skills in you to help you achieve particular goals. It is important to establish what exactly you want in a relationship as this will help you define whether it is mentorship or coaching.

Watch Sarah Richson, an accomplished trainer and organisational development expert paint a clear picture of the differences between coaching and mentorship.

Njeri Karanja
Njeri is a reading and creative writing enthusiast who is neck-deep in research writing. She is well versed in researching and writing on various topics.
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