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The difference between a life and career coach and mentor?

Chad Prinsloo | Web Designer

Janine Do Cabo  | Sustainability & Leadership Development  |  JHB, SA

May 2021

There isn’t any successful motivational speaker that hasn’t spoken about or touched on the value that comes from both mentors and career coaches. And, though the roles of each have been used interchangeably, there are stark differences between the two. In this post, we will discuss their definitions, differences, and similarities in order to bring clarity.


Serial entrepreneur and expert in internet marketing Dan Lok owes where he is in life to the mentors he has had. After investing the money he made online into real Estate, Lok became a millionaire at the impressive age of 27!  He candidly speaks about the days when he interned, got paid close to nothing, but gathered invaluable insights in both business and personal growth.

It goes without saying that mentors are a big deal and it would literally pay to learn what a mentor is and when to look into seeking out their services.

FUN FACT: The word mentor in English grammar is defined as a gerund. A gerund is a word that can be used as a noun as well as a verb.

To mentor and the mentor allow for the word to remain the same while altering its meaning.

As a noun it means (oxford dictionary)

an experienced and trusted adviser.

And, as a verb, it means to,

  1. advise or train (someone, especially a younger colleague)

Fun fact aside, mentors as the definition has pointed out, are experts within their field who have walked the road a potential mentee may want to walk. Having the advantage of seeing the potential pitfalls and dangers that they themselves had to overcome if a mentee puts the mentor to good use with an open and studious mind, they will not be blind-sided or deterred by hurdles along the way. Mentors walk alongside the mentee, guiding and steering them into the direction that would, in essence, cause them to win holistically while being the accountability partner or voice of reason that prevents them from making irrational, emotional decisions.

Like a shepherd, their rod of wisdom becomes a helpful tool for the mentee.

As a result, mentorship will get up close and very personal with meetings that may appear to look informal, however that doesn’t mean that there is no structure to the content shared in those discussions. When a mentor and mentee’s relationship isn’t marred by offense from correction or differences of opinion, success will be on the horizon. It’s a long-term union with the focus of developing the individual or organization in the overall sense of being balanced in the body (physical health), soul (mental health), and spirit (spiritual growth).

With that in mind, here are a few things to look out for when choosing a mentor. A mentor should:

– Share the same values as you

– Be someone you respect and feel comfortable with

– Have the ability to teach you

That said, however, the onus is on the mentee to glean from the wisdom of the mentor. This involves developing a habit of asking questions.

Of course, there are many advantages to having someone walk alongside you when faced with life’s gravest challenges and, the benefit from learning from the life of someone before making what could be costly decisions!

A career coach

A career coach though equally as valuable provides a completely different type of training. Their services are rendered when the interested person hopes to make a career change but needs a nudge in the right direction. Where the mentor’s relationship with the mentee is informal, the same can’t be said for a career coach whose main objective is to assist in identifying the current road the coachee is on, at the time of assessment, where they’d like to be with the intention of mapping out how to get to the goal. They are able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of an individual through experience and career assessments to identify potential career paths. Where mentors can be seen as accountability partners, if the career advice is not heeded, there is no obligation to do so.

As a career coach whose goal is clear and actionable, once they have done what they have determined to do, there is no reason to continue a relationship. As a result, the timeframe for a career coach is short-term with structured visits that are aimed at measuring progress. To meet the coachee’s expectations, they would have to work with the coach to negotiate when to meet.

Both coaches and mentors push their clients to reach the pinnacle of success in relation to each person’s goals, hopes, and dreams. That said, it can be noted that the common advantage to both is their ability to create an individual plan, mapped out for the advancement of both coachee and mentee respectively.

I am committed to providing you with the necessary tools you and your business need to set you up for success. 

When you speak, we listen. 

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