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Do you need a mentor or a coach? Which one am I? Do I have to be one or the other? Can I be both? This isn’t about me having an identity crisis but considering a question that often comes up.

If you’re confused by the difference then don’t worry. They’re both about development, growth and support to enable you. The terms are often used interchangeably. That account you’re following on LinkedIn or Instagram says they’re one or the other but probably talks about aspects of coaching and mentoring. Let me give you a quick overview.


Coaching always brings to mind people in tracksuits blowing whistles and talking about pre-game rituals. I think one of the keyways that coaching differs from mentoring is that it’s shorter term. This doesn’t necessarily mean a shorter overall relationship but that a coach is helping you to focus on short-term goals. So you’re planning specific action to take within a narrow timeframe in pursuit of an outcome.


Mentoring is longer term. You’re working towards an outcome over an extended, and even open-ended, timeframe and exploring what issues there are on the way there. It’s very personal and will evolve over time.

Start Here

My suggestion is to start with the person you’ll be working with. Whether it’s a group programme or a 1-2-1 session, what matters is your relationship with the person delivering the support. The most important thing is that they will understand what you need (even if you don’t know yourself) and that you feel comfortable working with them (you might be pushed out of your comfort zone at times but you trust them to support you).

A good coach/mentor will begin by talking through where you are and the type of help you need. They’ll even refer you elsewhere if they’re not right for what you need. 

I encourage people who are thinking about working with me to book in for a chat (use the big pink button on my website). We’ll have 30 minutes to talk about what they’re looking for, what their expectations are and for us to see how we get along. From there, we can decide if and how we want to work together. 

So treat it like any other significant personal relationship. Start by having a chat. See how you get on and if it feels right, stop worrying about whether they are a mentor or a coach and work with them.