Exploring career mentoring and coaching
Exploring career mentoring and coaching

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2.1 Differences and similarities


Change management organisation, the Brefi Group, summarise the differences in a useful table.

Table 1 Differences between mentoring and coaching
Mentoring Coaching
Ongoing relationship that can last for a long period of time Relationship generally has a set duration
Can be more informal and meetings can take place as and when the mentee needs some advice, guidance or support Generally more structured in nature and meetings are scheduled on a regular basis
More long term and takes a broader view of the person Short term (sometimes time-bounded) and focused on specific development areas/issues
Mentor is usually more experienced and qualified than the ‘mentee’. Often a senior person in the organisation who can pass on knowledge, experience and open doors to otherwise out-of-reach opportunities Coaching is generally not performed on the basis that the coach needs to have direct experience of their client’s formal occupational role, unless the coaching is specific and skills-focused
(Adapted from Brefi Group, 2017)


While there are clearly differences in the nature of the relationship, there are many similarities in the skills, tools and approaches a mentor or coach uses.

Drawing from the research of Zeus and Skiffington, Connor and Pokora (2007, Figure 1.2, p. 12) present a table that summarises the similarities between coaching and mentoring in a work context. They conclude that both:

  • require well-developed interpersonal skills
  • require the ability to generate trust, support commitment, and generate new actions through listening and speaking skills
  • shorten the learning curve
  • aim for the individual to improve his or her performance and be more productive
  • encourage the individual to stretch, but can provide support if the person falters or gets out of his or her depth
  • provide support without removing responsibility
  • require a degree of organisational know-how
  • focus on learning and development to enhance skills and competencies
  • stimulate personal growth to develop new expertise
  • can function as a career guide to review career goals and identify values, vision and career strengths
  • are role models.

Van Nieuwerburgh (2017, pp. 6–7) argues that ‘the terminology is unimportant as long as it is recognised that both approaches can support people to develop their skills and performance’.

In future weeks, you’ll consider some of the practical ways in which mentoring and coaching can support your career development, but first you’ll reflect on your own experience of either receiving or providing mentoring and/or coaching.

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