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Employee Mentoring

How Does Coaching Differ from Mentoring - Exposé for Career Upskilling

  • Omer Usanmaz
  • January 14 2022


  • Coaching and mentoring are not interchangeable despite what some people mistakenly do.
  • Mentoring is when a well-experienced senior authority in your organization or your industry starts a program to guide your holistic career development in mind.
  • Coaching is when you start a guidance program with a coach who has a proven record of helping in a specific area of your concern.
  • Coaching is for experienced professionals and mature businesses, whereas mentoring is for nascent talents.
  • Coaching is a non-directive initiative, whereas mentoring is directive.
  • You would be way better if you could find someone who can be both; your coach and mentor.

How often have you come across the terms coaching and mentoring? The answer may be a little too often for you to say, "Not that much." It has become common phrases thrown around by businesses and entrepreneurs and that too (to make things more interesting) by successful companies and entrepreneurs. So, what are these? Secret code words for career success? In a way, Yes.

This article defines these terms in detail and brings out the difference between coaching and mentoring. Also, the blog post will flush out answers to the questions like who you need in your current situation? What is best for you - a coach or a mentor? It will further put you in perspective to look for the right skills in your coach or mentor.

Some would use the word coaches and mentors interchangeably, but it is not proper. Even though the word labels share characteristics, they are not the same and have vital differences to prove so. Before getting to their difference, let's introduce the terms formally with their definitions.

  • The Definition of Coaching:

People who do the coaching, otherwise called the Coaches, help their clients with constant guidance to realise their desired goals.

  • The Definition of Mentoring:

People who do the mentoring, otherwise called the Mentors. A mentor is a senior leader who provides knowledge they gained through first-hand experience to their Mentees. A mentor also stimulates mentees' skills in the process.

Although these definitions of coaching and mentoring have now been presented clearly, their similarities add a layer of obscurity. So the only way to make the ambiguity go away is by making the difference between coaching and mentoring as vivid as possible.

The Key Differences Between Coaching and Mentoring

The differences between coaching and mentoring are shown side by side so that you can trace their attributes more clearly.





Mentoring is directive in its nature. Here the mentees receive guidance for their upskilling through the Mentor’s instructions and disclosure.

The coaching construct is non-directive in its nature. Here the clients go through their career upskilling by means of self-reflection and self-understanding with the help of the coaches.


Mentors are officials who supersede the mentees with seniority and years of experience. Mentors might be from the same organisation as the mentees or a different one. Either way, mentors will have respected authority over their area of expertise.

An effective coach is an educated person in a particular area of the client’s concern. Coaches will have experience, aside from their educated knowledge. For instance, a coach’s expertise varies from public speaking to sales etc.


The development of the mentees will be the focus of a mentoring relationship. It will focus not just on the current position of the mentees in a particular organisation but will have a holistic development mindset.

In a coaching agreement, performance of the client will be the prime focus of the coaching endeavour. The focus will be on what the client wants to improve to better his position on his current placement.

Time Span

Usually, the time frame of mentorship is years, maybe two, maybe three or more than that. It always tends to be a long period of time.

Coaching relationships last anywhere from six months to a year. It always is a short term thing. But depending upon the goal of the client, it can last longer.


The layout for a mentorship program is less structured and is informal. The meeting and the conversation happen only as the mentees require them.

The layout for a coaching program is well structured and formal. The meetings are scheduled weekly once or twice after predefined time allotment from both parties


For a mentee, a mentorship program is more of a voluntary program. Here, the mentee asks more questions to Mentors and understands how to deal with certain matters.

In coaching sessions, the coaches introduce a thought-provoking and creative process which involves questioning and inspiring ideas for the client to come up with their own best-suited solutions. This is what is interesting about the approach to coaching.


The mentee is responsible for setting up the agenda for mentoring programs and then moving forward with the mentor’s approval.

The client and the coach are both involved in deliberation and come up with the coaching agenda for their relationship. But the agenda is created with the client in mind.


The result of mentorship is agile, it can change from time to time and mean different things at different times. So the results here do not concern any specific metrics but the calumniating development of the mentee that can be personal. For a company, it improves employee engagement and creates a basement for strong relationship building.

The results of the coaching partnerships are quantifiable as they should be. In coaching partnerships, the gains of the client are measured with the goals that were defined at the beginning of the relationship.

What Do You Need? - A Mentor or A Coach

Now that the difference between coaching and mentoring is made clear, the next step is deciding who to choose. Suppose you are out looking for expert tutelage to bring out your professional potential and improve your personal life in the process. In that case, you should determine what program is the right pick for you, Coaching or Mentorship.

A Mentor

What you need is a mentor if the following is your situation.

  • A business mentor is for you if you are a nascent business or a young entrepreneur motivated for career development.
  • If you are not looking for a specific need to be solved but are looking for general guidance in your career, a business mentor is for you.
  • If you are not sure what is possible in your career and you need someone who has “been there and done that”
  • If you are a junior in your organization and need the guidance of a seasoned veteran of the organization
  • If you are taking over a position and you need the counsel of the wise man who came before you so to benefit your leadership development

A Coach

What you need is a Coach if the following is your situation:

  • If you are a well-established business or an experienced entrepreneur focused on development or advancement
  • Suppose you are looking for guidance to solve a specific, nuanced or granular problem for you or your business. This scenario happens when the company is matured.
  • If you are an accomplished professional who is struggling to meet a particular goal or expectation set by your business
  • If you are a leader or a manager who has to cope with an ambitious merger or anything similar
  • If you are responsible for establishing a work culture for newly acquired team members and providing a co-habitable environment
  • If you are exposed to a new responsibility, you need to establish or replenish the skill required to perform it efficiently
  • If you want a flexible program with dedicated assistance that works to develop your skill set fast

By identifying your need and spotting your stage in the hierarchy, you can sense what kind of help you will need. Whether coaching or mentorship is your current necessity, you can select seasoned and talented coaches/mentors with proven records.

But if you are lucky enough to find a virtuoso who is a coach and a mentor, do not think twice about establishing a knowledge-sharing program that incorporates a coach-client relationship and a mentor-mentee relationship. Despite your stage or need, it should not be an either/or situation if you can get it.

Pro Tips Before Starting A Mentorship/Coaching Program

If you have identified who you want in your current situation, considering your need, the next step will be to find a skilled mentor/coach and start the relationship. But before that, let us recommend some pro tips.

  • Pro tip 1: Respect your mentors and coaches for the experience and knowledge they have
  • Pro tip 2: Go with an open heart. Don’t start the program with a reserved mindset
  • Pro tip 3: Collaborate to set up ground rules such as the time, date, place, and platform for the program. And most importantly, stick to it
  • Pro tip 4: Decide on the result you want to achieve and discuss it with your coach/mentor

In A Nutshell

Despite having similarities in their meaning, coaching and mentoring are very different approaches to upskilling your career. We have seen that an effective mentorship will be suitable for nascent businesses or young entrepreneurs who want general advice for their career development. In comparison, a coach-client endeavor is best for experienced professionals who want to solve their specific, granular, or nascent problems (or acquire some crucial skills), which only comes in when the business is matured. It is not an either/or situation either, i.e., if you could find someone in your corner who could be both a coach and a mentor, that is even better.

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