Business Coach vs. Professional Mentor – Who Are They and Which is Best for You?

November 28, 2021

In almost every stage of your career, it’s helpful to have objective input on how you’re doing and what you might try next. Last time you needed help moving your professional life forward, did you consider looking for a mentor or a coach? Sometimes these terms – mentoring and coaching – are used interchangeably in the business world, but there are significant differences between what each does. Keep reading to find out what each of these professionals bring to the table and which relationship may be the best fit for your needs.

Mentor: Inspires and Motivates

Mentors are people who use their personal and professional experiences to help guide others looking to follow a similar career path. People often seek a mentorship with someone they admire career-wise, who can provide insight and guidance on how to achieve similar success. Typically a more casual relationship based on experience alone, a mentor nurtures development and growth by sharing knowledge, skills, and/or experience with another person to help elevate their success. This sort of relationship tends to be more personal, one that grows over the years into a long-term professional friendship. A mentor is great for those who have a clear career path in mind.

Coach: Teaches and Guides

A business coach is typically a paid professional who is focused on creating clear steps to help individuals meet career development goals. Similar to an athletic coach, a business coach is focused on helping you develop specific areas or skills you will need to succeed and get where you want to go. Where a mentor shows you a behind-the-scenes look at how they achieved their own success and helps provide a path to emulate, a coach doesn’t need be in your same career field to help you navigate decisions and enhance your resume. This sort of relationship is better for those who may want a career change or need specific growth before a big next step and want help getting there.

Coaches and mentors can serve a purpose at different stages in your career. Both coaches and mentors are there to help you succeed, but different methods may be appropriate at different times in your career. When selecting a coach or mentor, look to your own business network or consider asking for referrals from others you respect. Select someone with experience that aligns with your goals, and who is both willing and able to spend time building a long-term relationship.

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