Coaching Vs. Mentoring: What’s The Difference?

Coaching vs. Mentoring: What’s the Difference?

By Zachary Amos, a features editor at Zac specializes in various trending technology topics such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and smart homes. He is also constantly preoccupied with the latest technology trends, ranging from the ethics of AI to experimenting with the newest gadgets. 

Coaching vs. mentoring — are they the same? The terms “coaching” and “mentoring” are often used interchangeably, but they actually represent distinct approaches to helping individuals succeed.

While both provide career support, coaching vs. mentoring differ in their methodologies and objectives. 

Coaching typically involves a structured process focused on improving specific skills or achieving particular goals, while mentoring tends to involve a more long-term, relationship-based approach aimed at providing guidance, support, and wisdom based on the mentor’s experience and expertise.

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What Do Mentors Do?

Mentorships are important for professional development as they offer invaluable support and guidance to less experienced individuals.

For instance, a seasoned employee can take a proactive role in mentoring a younger colleague by sharing not only job-specific knowledge, but also insights on navigating the professional landscape, building relationships, and honing crucial skills.

This passing down of wisdom and expertise can greatly benefit the mentee’s career growth and overall success. Here are some things a mentor can do.

  • Guide: A mentor serves as a role model, sharing their knowledge, experience, and wisdom to help guide the mentee’s personal and professional development. They provide valuable insights, perspectives, and advice based on their own journey and achievements.
  • Sounding Board: Mentors offer a safe space for mentees to discuss their ideas, concerns, challenges, and opportunities. They listen actively, ask thought-provoking questions, and provide feedback and suggestions to help mentees explore different perspectives and make informed decisions.
  • Role Model: By sharing their experiences, successes, and failures, mentors serve as role models for their mentees. They demonstrate valuable qualities, such as integrity, professionalism, leadership, and resilience, inspiring mentees to emulate these traits.
  • Career Guidance: Mentors often share their knowledge and insights about the mentee’s industry, career paths, and professional development opportunities. They may offer advice on navigating workplace dynamics, building networks, and advancing in one’s career.
  • Skill Development: Depending on their expertise, mentors can help mentees develop specific skills or areas of knowledge relevant to their goals. This could involve sharing resources, providing feedback, or suggesting learning opportunities.
  • Motivation and Encouragement: Mentors can provide much-needed motivation and encouragement, especially during challenging times or when mentees face setbacks or doubts. They offer emotional support, celebrate successes, and help mentees stay focused and resilient.
  • Networking Opportunities: Mentors may introduce mentees to their professional networks, facilitating valuable connections and potential opportunities for growth and advancement.

It’s important to note that the role of a mentor is typically voluntary and based on mutual understanding and respect between the mentor and mentee. Effective mentoring relationships are built on trust, open communication, and a shared commitment to the mentee’s personal and professional growth.

Conversely, a recent college graduate who is up-to-date with the latest trends might mentor a long-time employee. This is known as reverse mentoring and is common in rapidly changing fields like tech and social media.

“As organizations grapple with the challenges and opportunities presented by remote work, global teams, and a diverse workforce, reverse mentoring emerges as a key strategy for fostering innovation, inclusivity, and adaptability,” author and entrepreneur Er. Santosh G. writes in his LinkedIn newsletter “Sustainomics.”

The mentor shares their knowledge and the mentee benefits from their experience. A mentor can be a friend, co-worker, or even a stranger. The key is finding someone in the field willing to share their expertise and help mentees identify opportunities and avoid pitfalls.

What Do Coaches Do?


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A career coach plays a specific role in helping individuals navigate and advance their professional lives. Here are some of the key responsibilities and services a career coach typically provides:

  • Career exploration and planning: A career coach helps clients identify their strengths, interests, values, and goals, and then guides them in exploring suitable career paths or job opportunities that align with their aspirations.
  • Skill assessment and development: The coach evaluates the client’s existing skills, identifies gaps, and provides guidance on developing or enhancing relevant skills required for career advancement or transition.
  • Resume and cover letter review: Career coaches review and provide feedback on resumes, cover letters, and other application materials to ensure they effectively showcase the client’s qualifications and achievements.
    Interview preparation: They conduct mock interviews, provide feedback on body language, communication style, and help clients prepare for different types of interview questions and scenarios.
  • Job search strategies: Career coaches advise clients on effective job search techniques, including networking, using online job boards, leveraging social media, and other strategies to increase visibility and connect with potential employers.
  • Salary negotiation: They provide guidance on evaluating job offers, negotiating salaries, benefits, and other compensation packages.
    Career transition support: For individuals seeking a career change, a career coach helps them assess transferable skills, identify potential industries or roles, and develop a plan for a successful transition.
  • Goal setting and accountability: The coach works with clients to set realistic and achievable career goals, develop action plans, and provide ongoing support and accountability to keep clients motivated and on track.
  • Personal branding: Career coaches may assist clients in developing and promoting their personal brand, including online presence, networking strategies, and self-marketing techniques.
  • Confidence building and mindset coaching: They help clients overcome self-doubt, imposter syndrome, or other psychological barriers that may hinder their career growth, fostering a positive and proactive mindset.

A career coach serves as a guide and accountability partner, providing personalized support and resources to help clients achieve their professional goals and reach their full potential in their careers.

You should expect to have regular performance development conversations with a career coach. In general, a coach is someone you hire.

Coaches can also provide expertise to groups. For example, Radical Candor coaches teach teams and organizations the art of kind, clear, specific, and sincere feedback at work to help them build better relationships with each other.

Coaching vs. Mentoring Examples

Mentoring plays a significant role in expanding an individual’s network, fostering personal and professional growth, and boosting their confidence. It involves a more holistic approach, focusing on the development of the mentee as a whole individual. 

On the other hand, coaching is more skill-focused, aiming to develop specific skills and provide knowledge in a particular area.

Both coaching and mentoring are valuable for staff and leadership development, but they serve distinct functions and cater to different aspects of personal and professional growth.

1. Coaching vs. Mentoring: The Role of the Helper

coaching vs mentoring

Both coaches and mentors play a crucial role in helping individuals advance in their careers. Coaches identify areas for improvement and provide tools for growth, while mentors act as role models, offering support and paving the way for mentees to progress.

Coaching is generally more short-term, while mentoring is a long-term commitment.

An employee with poor time management skills might benefit from seeking advice from a coach. The coach could recommend using specific software programs to help them get organized.

Likewise, a coach could assign workplace communication training to someone who needs help improving their communication skills.

Contrast that with a mentor who would provide examples from their own workflow and share personal experiences on how they learned to manage their time better. The mentor will check in long after the coaching sessions end.

2. Coaching vs. Mentoring: Setting Goals

Coaching vs. Mentoring: Setting Goals

Both mentors and coaches assist individuals with the crucial task of setting goals to enhance various aspects of their careers.

Coaches concentrate on short-term changes and incremental progress that ultimately lead to achieving larger goals. Mentors consider the long-term effects of ideas and provide support and guidance to help individuals develop holistically.

Coaches typically specialize in one or two specific skills, while mentors take a broader view of the situation.

Consider a team leader who is aiming to increase productivity. They seek guidance from a coach and develop a plan to implement new project and time management software.

They also establish a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) to finish a certain amount of work or a specific project by a set deadline. The coach assists them in breaking down larger tasks into smaller ones with defined deadlines and associated tasks.

Additionally, the team leader seeks advice from a mentor. This experienced professional shares a scenario where they had to complete a project within a tight deadline and discusses the strategies they employed.

The mentor points out their own mistakes to prevent the team leader from repeating similar errors. They offer encouragement, explaining that the goal is attainable with hard work.

3. Coaching vs. Mentoring: Relationships

Coaching vs. Mentoring: Relationships

The relationship with a coach is distinct from that with a mentor.

Coaches are often paid for their guidance, whether it’s to help someone learn a new skill or software, or to navigate a complex project. Coaching typically revolves around a specific goal and involves scheduled sessions. The relationship is usually more formal and has a set duration.

Mentors, on the other hand, aim for a deeper connection. They may view you as a younger version of themselves and invest in you because they’ve had a mentor before or wish they did.

Mentorship sessions may involve activities such as building workplace relationships, such as inviting you to lunch, or spending time discussing your progress with your goals. The relationship tends to be more personal.

A mentor remains with you for months or even years, sharing their wisdom. Unlike coaches, they are usually not paid, although some coaches may offer more extensive one-on-one guidance that resembles mentoring.

Coaching, Mentoring, and Radical Candor

Coaching, Mentoring, and Radical Candor

The most important thing you should expect from both coaches and mentors is their ability to be kind, clear, specific, and sincere about how you can grow and improve. 

You want your coach or mentor to give radically candid feedback so you get a clear view of your strengths and weaknesses. This means giving praise that is specific and sincere and giving criticism that is kind and clear.

Getting fast and frequent feedback helps to grow a healthy company culture instead of creating a toxic workplace. Radical Candor is clear feedback without brutal honesty or cruelty, which builds employee trust and improves workplace morale.

Getting everyone on the same page with how feedback happens in your company — either through feedback workshops or feedback training for leaders — will avoid many misunderstandings and help employees continuously grow and improve. 

Businesses that adopt a culture of feedback using the principles of Radical Candor tend to have workers who are ready to learn and grow, every day.

“There aren’t a lot of surprises, and anything negative is an opportunity to improve and grow, while the positive things are to be celebrated,” Heather Knight, a digital nomad who was introduced to Radical Candor at Airbnb told Picktochart

“I have weekly one-on-ones with my current lead. We talk about everything and track my progress which allows me to make a strong case for promotions and raises each year. It’s really refreshing.”

Coaching vs. Mentoring: What’s Right For You?

What’s Right For You: Coaching or Mentoring?

Coaching vs. mentoring? Which one do you need? Ideally, it would be beneficial for every leader to have both a coach and a mentor to provide guidance, support, and advice during challenging times and to aid in their professional growth. 

If you’re looking for a mentor, we highly recommend Mentorship Unlocked: The Science and Art of Setting Yourself Up for Success by Janice Omadeke, founder of The Mentor Method, an enterprise software that revolutionizes company culture through the power of mentorship.

Mentorship Unlocked offers new insights on establishing and nurturing mentor relationships in today’s fast-changing environment. This essential guide helps you quickly find your network of mentors who can boost your career path.

In addition, here are some other tips for finding a mentor.


  • Tap your network. Reach out to colleagues, former managers, professors, alumni from your university, or members of professional associations you belong to. Sometimes the best mentors are right in your existing circle.
  • Use your company resources. Many organizations have formal mentoring programs that can match you with a more experienced employee. Check if your workplace offers this.
  • Attend industry events. Conferences, meetups, and networking events are great for meeting potential mentors who have experience in your field of interest.
  • Join online communities. There are mentorship programs and career-oriented forums/groups on platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Reddit where you can connect with individuals willing to provide guidance.
  • Look locally. Community organizations, non-profits focused on professional development, and your local chamber of commerce sometimes facilitate mentoring.
  • Clearly state your goals. When asking someone to mentor you, explain what you hope to get out of the relationship so they understand the time commitment.
  • Start with informational interviews. Request a coffee meeting to pick someone’s brain before asking about an ongoing mentorship.

To achieve professional growth and receive valuable career advice, it’s crucial to make connections and fearlessly put yourself out there. Having a mentor can be incredibly valuable in this journey.

If you’re looking for a career coach, here are some steps you can take to ensure you find the right one for you.

  • Get referrals. Ask friends, colleagues, your university’s career services office, or professional associations if they can recommend any career coaches they’ve had good experiences with.
  • Read reviews and testimonials. Check the coach’s website, LinkedIn profile, and other online listings to see what others have said about working with them.
  • Have an introductory call. Many coaches offer an initial brief consultation for free or at a low cost. Use this to get a sense of their coaching style and see if you would be a good fit working together.
  • Clarify their approach. Understand their coaching philosophy, methods they use, and what the process would look like working with them. Make sure their approach resonates with you.
  • Consider your goals. Choose a coach who has expertise aligned with what you hope to achieve, whether it’s career exploration, interview prep, negotiation skills, etc.
  • Compare costs. Coaching fees can vary widely. Get quotes from a few coaches that meet your criteria to find someone affordable yet qualified.

The right career coach can provide invaluable guidance, accountability, and expertise to help you advance professionally. Taking the time to find one that’s a good match for you is important.

When deciding on coaching vs. mentoring, the decision should be based on your specific needs, goals, and the areas in which you want to develop or improve. It’s also helpful to have clear expectations and to communicate them when engaging with a coach or mentor.


Zachary Amos contributes workplace culture articles to Radical Candor. He is also constantly preoccupied with the latest technology trends, ranging from the ethics of AI to experimenting with the newest gadgets and playing the latest gaming consoles. As Features Editor at, he specializes in various trending technology topics such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and smart homes. His tech insights have been featured in publications like VentureBeat, TalentCulture, ISAGCA, Unite.AI,, and many others. Claude AI contributed to this post.


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