The Difference between Coaching and Mentoring

For someone unfamiliar with the terms and new to the industry, coaching and mentoring may even seem interchangeable. And although there are some parallels – both of them are there to help you – the method is quite different. If you are looking for guidance and are in need of some external help, choose wisely. If you know what you are looking for, getting to your end goal will be that much easier.

Take a look at this article in order to better understand the difference between a coach and a mentor, and to make sure you know what your needs are. There is no harm in hiring both, but it is important that you know what is your desired outcome, so the trained professionals you hire know how to get you there.

What is the role of a coach?

Although many still confuse the term coach with its equivalent in sports, business and personal coaches are actually quite different than their counterparts on the field. A coach is a person that doesn’t need to have experience in your industry or with your problem. It can, in some cases, be beneficial, but that is not their role. You hire a coach for a shorter period of time in order to help you solve a specific issue that you are facing in your business or in your personal life.

Coaches tend to maintain a relationship that is more professional than personal, and, depending on their coaching style, they follow a certain methodology and a principle. They use the tools they are in command of in order to aide you with finding the solution yourself. The role of a coach is never to offer their own solution, no matter how much you are struggling. Their goal is to make you see the solution yourself. This is the reason why coaches don’t need to have experience with your issue, or in your industry in order to be effective.

What is the role of a mentor?

A mentor, as well as coach, is there to help you with your personal and professional growth, but in a completely different way. Mentor is someone that does have an experience with the industry and with the issue you are trying to handle. They are usually someone older than you, tasked with providing you with input and guidance in order to improve your career prospects, tackle a personal issue, or improve your soft skills. Unlike a coach, they are required to directly answer your doubts and questions and guide you clearly in the right direction.

Because of this difference in methodology a relationship with a mentor is much more long term, personal and intimate. A mentorship relationship is typical for recent graduates and more seasoned professionals, typically found through their university. Of course, there are other methods of locating ones, such as, for example, startup programs for new business owners funded by a foundation or the government.

How to know what should I choose?

The most important thing to keep in mind is that one is not better than the other. Both coach and mentor have their own benefits and downsides and the only thing that you need to figure out is which one do you need at the current moment.

If you are just starting a journey and are in desperate need for some guidance and aide, you would be better off finding a mentor that is inside your industry. They can help you save your time and energy by directing you to the best option for yourself and your career. On the other hand, if you are struggling with a concrete issue that has been blocking you, personally or professionally, then working with a couch will yield better results. They can help you determine the bottleneck and dig your way out.

Regardless of who you actually choose in the end, it is important that you opt for someone you are comfortable working with. Long term or not, that person is someone you are supposed to rely on, tell your issues to and respect. If you don’t feel the connection, the end results might not be reachable, with all the help in the world. This is why you need to be honest with you coach, and don’t hide things from them, if you are asking them to help you. Same goes for your mentor. Not only is it important to choose which one would fit your needs better it is paramount that you create a relationship based on trust and respect. That way you will never have  to worry about reaching your end goal.

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