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When seeking rapid personal and professional growth, there’s a real tussle on whether to go for a mentor or coach. The two have unique skills, strategies, and benefits, which make it even more difficult to pick one that works best. In reality, they both do great jobs. It all depends on your needs and the context. As you strive to develop different areas of your life, here are some aspects to consider and help you decide what would work best for your situation.
A mentor and coach serve different purposes. So, start by categorizing your goals as either career or personal development-oriented. If you’re looking for someone to help you with both but more professional growth, you should go for a mentor. A coach would be a good choice if you’re seeking personal growth and particularly yearning to hone in on a skill. A coach uses a more goal-oriented approach and is a perfect fit for instilling the discipline to push yourself hard. They’re also time-bound and can deliver on short-term goals. For instance, if you’re looking to be better at public speaking before your next competition.
Another critical aspect to consider when deciding whether to hire a coach or get a mentor is your timeline for getting results. For instance, are you looking for a quick turnaround or a journey? If you need help with a short-term goal like improving your performance, dating life, or project management, get a coach.
If your desire is more long-term like to be the next top 40 under 40 CEO or a serial entrepreneur, then mentorship would work best for you. Either way, whoever you choose must be a like-minded individual who you trust. You can use Nuwber to help you understand if they’re authentic and avoid falling for scammers, especially self-proclaimed coaches.
While both arrangements are geared toward helping you, one is more personal than professional. Hence, you need to get comfortable with opening up to someone if you need a mentor in your life. A mentorship relationship spreads across a very long time, making it more personal and informal. There has to be rapport and trust created at the onset of the relationship for a mentor to help. The mentor also lets you in on their private life, so the trust has to be two-way. This nurturing and supportive relationship is fostered over time but is intimate from the get-go. The relationship with a coach is developed professionally, without necessarily touching on personal life.
The structure applied in both makes a critical difference throughout the process. Mentoring follows an unstructured approach, meaning it’s tailored to meet unique circumstances and aspirations. The flexibility allows the mentor to customize the experiences and advice they share with every mentee. With the relationship unfolding organically, it allows for the exploration of different topics. Coaching, however, has a different approach. The process is structured and more formal, following a particular process with minimum flexibility. This systematic framework gives room to follow step-by-step guidelines.
If you’re torn between a coach and a mentor, the best way to go around it is to approach it with the end goal in mind. For instance, do you want to be the best at what you do, or are you looking for someone to hold your hand? If you want to be better at something, then a coach is your best friend. But if you want someone who has walked the path you’re about to take holding your hand, by all means, get a mentor.
A coach emphasizes getting results in a specific area, whether business, personal development, branding, performance, etc. Hence, they’re motivated and wired to push you toward the success of that specific thing. Mentorship is more of a holistic approach because the goal is to mold you into the person you want to be in the future. For instance, if your mentor is a leader, they provide you with an insider perspective of what it takes to be a leader. All you have to do is focus on getting this picture working for you.
In the learning process, feedback is important, and unfortunately, we respond differently to criticism and praise. Mentorship feedback is delivered informally in a personalized way. It’s qualitative, drawing on to convey different perspectives. It covers a wide area professionally and personally, making it more holistic. Feedback from a coach is directly tied to your objectives. Being actionable and specific solves the problem by helping you improve your skills within the framework. Coaches use KPIs and other metrics to determine your performance before giving feedback. Simply put, coaching is scientific, while mentorship is often casual.
Since learning is involved, power dynamics are inevitable in mentorship and coaching. A mentor is normally an established professional, and their experience, seniority, and expertise build their credibility. They have an insatiable need to call the shots because they have been there and done that. On the other hand, coaches tend to assume an equal power balance with their clients because while they are experts at coaching, they may not be experts in their client’s industry. Even though they bring their expertise, there’s little focus on the hierarchical positioning as the relationship is of two professionals in different fields.
Some people learn best by doing something, while others are good at listening and memorizing concepts. Figuring out where you fall can help you choose whether you need a mentor or a coach. Mentorship uses more directive teaching techniques that involve telling you what to do. However, coaching assumes a non-directive teaching strategy that would require you to figure things out for yourself.
A mentorship program is mostly informal and doesn’t involve direct costs. The relationship lasts long, giving way to accessibility and affordability. On the other hand, most coaches have a rate card that reflects their expertise and demand for their service. Hence, if you have no budget set for this, a mentor is possibly your only option at the moment.
If you like the benefits of both and can handle the underlying challenges, it’s not wrong to combine them for an enhanced outcome. You reap the benefits of mentorship over the long haul while getting immediate results from coaching. Nevertheless, note that this hybrid system may be more demanding and require you to operate at your best.
Picking between a coach and a mentor comes down to individual objectives, preferences, or circumstances. While there are unique benefits that come with each, it’s impossible to tell which one is more important than the other. So, do your due diligence and look at all the benefits as well as your personality to assess what would work for you. Whether you’re looking to enhance growth in a certain area of your life or better your career, there’s a place for both. It’s all about what works best with your unique circumstances.