Career Coaching vs Mentoring: Why you may need both

Coaching and mentoring are increasingly being recognised as two approaches that can foster growth in the realm of personal and professional development. While some people may regard coaching and mentorship as synonymous, their methodologies, approaches and areas of focus differ significantly. The following article seeks to shed some light on the key distinctions and advantages that coaching and mentoring can offer.

1. Relationship Foundation

The foundation of mentorship is relationship building. Mentorship is more intimate and typically involves a more personal relationship characterized by mutual trust. As such, the relationship is often long, allowing the mentor to gain a deeper understanding of the mentee, their goals and aspirations.  The key advantage is that the mentor and mentee develop a deeper bond and understanding of each other which plays an important role in successfully mapping out long-term goals.

Conversely, coaching is more formal and structured, taking place within a predefined time frame. Instead of building a long-term relationship, coaches make use of various strategic questioning techniques and active listening to help the coachee gain clarity, set short-term goals, and develop skills. The key advantage of coaching is that the process is more time-efficient and results orientated, always focusing on what can be achieved in the here and now.


2. Focus Areas

Mentorship’s long-term and intimate approach makes it holistic. Mentors are often role models, offering advice, imparting wisdom, and sharing their personal and professional life experiences. The focus is always on the mentee’s long-term outlook and trajectory. The key advantage of this approach is the fostering of both personal and professional development due to the personalized nature of the relationship.

Coaching, on the other hand, is all about measurable outcomes in the short term. It is hyper-focused on identifying areas of improvement, developing an action plan, reviewing and enhancing performance, as well as acquiring the necessary skills to deliver the desired results. The key benefit is that coaching’s focus on measurable outcomes grounds the individual in what is possible while offering tools and techniques to help them push beyond their perceived limitations to reach their full potential.


3. Direction

Mentorship is centered around storytelling in which the mentor offers the mentees perspective and guidance using real-life examples. Their role is more directive in nature as mentors are essentially advisors; there to offer the mentee suggestions and advice based on their intimate understanding of the mentee as well as their own personal experiences. The key advantage is that this understanding combined with storytelling can help build confidence and encourage the mentee to break perceived limitations by allowing them to see themselves in the mentor’s or protagonist's position.

In contrast, coaches are non-directive in their approach. They encourage coachees to think critically and attain self-discovery in order to arrive at their own solutions. Acting more as facilitators, the key advantage of coaching is that it allows the coachee to take ownership of their decisions and actions; which can be a powerful tool for growth and self-actualisation.


In conclusion, mentoring and coaching, though different, offer distinct approaches which can lead to distinct advantages in the realm of personal and professional development. While mentorship’s long-term guidance and intimate approach helps the individual gain a broader perspective to answer the big questions and lay the foundation, coaching’s laser focus on actionable and measurable outcomes can play an important role in providing the building blocks.

Simply put, mentorship could be viewed as the road map, the career is the vehicle, and coaching is the fuel we use to reach our desired destinations.