Need a Mentor or a Coach? Be Sure You Know the Difference.

Plus, The One Thing That Trips Up Most Mentorship Programs.

Thrive invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.
Photo Credit: @lindseyamiller | Pink Mentor Network‘s “How Female Leaders Succeed Within Fast-Growing Organizations – 11/12/19 at Passport Labs, Inc. Charlotte, NC

One of the most common questions I receive is:

“What’s the difference between mentorship & coaching?”

Based on my experience coaching individuals how to find mentors & helping organizations build cultures of mentorship, there are three clear differences: Process, Approach, & Price.


Mentors often have lived through where we are going and have insight to share based on their experiences. Coaches may not have experienced our destination, yet have developed effective processes to help us get there.


Mentorship is traditionally informal and unplanned. We usually receive visceral responses to impromptu questions. This nonchalant format can make traditional mentorship less reliable. Because when either party gets busy or priorities shift, the relationship dissolves.

Coaching is more formalized. While it may feel painful, it’s actually part of an orderly approach to get us from Point A to Point B. Coaching usually has a clear beginning, conclusion, duration, and format.


Coaches are usually hired to teach or guide us. Mentorship is a voluntary role where someone with experience chooses to invest their time & learnings.

Finally, A Warning For Organizational Mentorship Programs

That last sentence bears repeating. It’s the one that trips up most organizational mentorship programs.

Mentorship is a voluntary role where someone with experience chooses to invest their time & learnings.

Most programs fail because leadership pairs someone deemed more experienced with a colleague who may benefit.

But mentorship only works if both parties are willing participants. The mentor must choose to invest their time & experience. The learner must value it and know how to apply the mentorship.

True mentorship cannot be manufactured.

It’s an innate belief in another’s potential and a value we have on our own experiences. Without both elements, the relationship never works.


As an entrepreneur on a mission to create a brand new model of mentorship for the world, I have, and need both–coaches & mentors!

My coaches help me when I get stuck.

My mentors inspire me to think bigger & give me examples of how to do so. I have a network of eighteen of mentors—6 different types, 3 different levels. All, voluntarily sharing their experiences to help me succeed.

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.