Coaching VS Mentoring

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Coaching and mentoring are two different functions and there is some confusion about their differences and definitions. The straight forward difference between these two concepts is this: coaching is about your job, whereas mentoring is about your career.  Here is some information that should help you in understanding the important differences between these two concepts.

Mentoring is broader in scope than coaching, but can include coaching functions at times. For example, coaching occurs within the context of mentoring when the mentor helps the mentee learn or improve an important skill or behavior. In general, mentoring's purpose is to support individual development by providing both career and psychosocial support. On the other hand, coaching is focused on the improvement or development of specific behaviors or skill set.

Some Key Differences between Coaching and Mentoring




Key goals

To correct inappropriate behaviors, improve performance, or impart specifically needed skills

To support and guide personal growth of the mentee

Initiative for mentoring

Coaches direct new learning and instruction

The mentee directs their learning


The acceptance of being coached is essential, but not necessarily voluntary

Both mentor and mentee participate as volunteers


Immediate problems and learning opportunities; addressing gaps between actual and desired performance

Long-term personal career development; facilitates goal setting, action planning and implementation


Largely on giving skills/behaviors to practice, giving feedback, allowing correction

Heavy on listening, providing advice and suggestions, making connections, being a role model


Usually short-term; administered on "as needed" basis



Results measured objectively, and evident within a prescribed time frame

Results may be subjective, difficult to measure, and evolve over time


Dimensions to Identify the Mentoring Relationship

The greater degree of commitment by both mentor and mentee, coupled with the broader influence of this commitment on both personal and career areas, defines a mentoring relationship. In contrast, coaches have a much narrower influence on their clients that is primarily focused on their career and is task oriented. Role models are distant figures that may have broader influences than coaches but who do not get personally involved with the individual (Clawson, 1980).


Fagan, M. The term mentor: A review of the literature and a pragmatic suggestion. International Journal of Mentoring, 1988; 2:5-8

Clawson, J. Mentoring and managerial careers. In C.B. Derr, (Ed.), Work, Family, and the Career. New York: Praeger. 1980.

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