Differences Between a Mentor and a Coach

May 10, 2019

When talking talent development, there are a few options to choose from. Some you may have heard of are mentoring and coaching. While very similar, mentoring and coaching are different things. If you have read about the differences between mentoring and coaching but are still confused, you may need to consider the differences between a mentor and a coach.

A mentor and a coach assume different roles. They both help develop individuals within your organization, but they do it differently. Thinking about the actual humans behind the relationship, what they do, how they do it, and why may help you see the difference.

Here is a look at the difference between mentors and coaches.


Mentors are generally individuals who work within your organization and have volunteered to mentor you. They may work in your department, or higher in the company. Because of the close proximity, you will most likely meet regularly and for an extended period of time - the length of mentoring relationships often exceeds the length of the mentoring program.

Your mentoring sessions could be in-person or virtual, but your mentor will generally focus on career development, business skills, or other personal goals and issues you have.

A Mentor…

  • Usually works for the same organization as you
  • Doesn’t mentor for a living
  • Stays long-term (9-12 months)
  • Works with you on career development and other personal goals
  • Is a volunteer

You may need a mentor if…

  • You struggle with work/life balance
  • You want to advance your career
  • You want to move into a new area of your company


Coaches are usually hired by your organization from third parties and brought in to coach an individual in a specific skill set. Because they are hired by the company, they will usually report to your manager or an executive that oversees the relationship. They will get the goals for you to work on from these higher-ups, and they will report your progress to them as well. They will coach you for a short time until you have completed your goals, learned a specific skill set, or obtained the knowledge they were hired to teach you.

A Coach…

  • Works for a coaching agency or freelances
  • Reports to your manager or higher-up
  • Stays short-term
  • Works on one specific set of skills or know-how
  • Is paid

You may need a coach if…

  • You struggle with one specific skill area
  • Your manager wants to see improvement in a specific place
  • You need a behavioral change

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