Mentoring and Coaching: What’s the Difference?


Although both can be useful, mentoring and coaching aren’t the same. Here is a quick overview of the important differences.

Mentoring and Coaching Comparison Table




Fundamental activity


Evoking and reframing.

Typical approach

Mentor offers guidance about an organization, profession, industry, or career path.

Focus is on present and future.

Both mentor and mentee may draw on personal lessons from past experiences.

Coach assumes client has his or her own answers. Rather than offering advice, coach uses open-ended questions to bring answers to light.

Focus is on present and future.

Generally, coach helps client draw from his or her own experiences.


Mentee and mentor discuss questions and challenges related to professional life and career progression.

Coach helps client develop self-knowledge to create greater awareness of new possibilities.

Length of relationship

Typically six to nine months, but could last several years.

Typically three to six months, but could last from one session to several years.

Nature of relationship

Contract between mentor and mentee is usually informal. Discussion topics vary from session to session. Meetings may be structured or ad hoc.

Contract between coach and client is formal and well defined. The coaching objective is usually identified at the start, and a certain number of sessions occur at regular intervals during a defined period.

Who’s responsible for taking charge

Mentee generates agenda and focus for sessions.

Client generates focus for sessions. Coach uses coaching frameworks and practices to support conversation and client's progress.


Conversation is private and expected to be confidential.

Conversation is private and expected to be confidential.