Why you need a career coach AND a career mentor

Why you need a career coach AND a career mentor
What’s your career pathway?

It can be a very daunting task looking at your career and asking yourself: “So, where do I go next?”

None of us are great at answering this question by ourselves hence we often turn to our friends and family for advice. This can result in circular conversations where your loved ones try desperately to give you the right advice but end up leaving you more even more confused.

So what do you do in these situations?

You find someone who is an expert in the field of career advice: enter the Career Coach. These professionals usually work for consultancies and specialise in clarifying your career direction, helping you understand & build your unique strengths, and work with you to develop new skills relevant to your chosen pathway.

However, what if this is only half of the picture? After many discussions around this topic, I believe there is another vital role in this space: the Career Mentor.

Mentor vs. Coach

So what is the difference between a Coach and a Mentor?

I recently spoke to Ray Brown, Founder of, on this topic and he used this example to illustrate the key differences:

“I typically use the analogy of climbing a mountain to differentiate between coaching and mentoring. The coach will assist you in deciding which mountain, when to climb, and to test your resolve as you set out on your personal adventure. The mentor, on the other hand, will already have climbed your selected “mountain” and will therefore be able to advise you on the best “routes”, the possible hazards and the most appropriate mindsets to ensure success.”

Essentially a ‘Career Mentor’ is someone who has already been where you currently are in your career, they’ve made the transition or career change you’re trying to achieve, or they simply have already gone through the same professional hardships that you’re dealing with right now. This person isn’t necessarily older, more experienced or any wiser than you; they will simply “already have climbed your selected mountain”.

Why both coach & mentor are essential

A Career Coach is an extremely useful resource and I would highly recommend that if you’re considering making a career transition or looking to elevate your career in any way you should most definitely look into employing one. They will be able to:

– Assist you in identifying your weaknesses
– Build on your strengths and unique characteristics
 – Set you up with new skills ready to take on a plethora of new challenges
– Help you choose your pathway

The problem is that once you begin to undertake these challenges the chances that your Career Coach has actually gone through exactly what you are going through is slim therefore they would be unable to provide the unique insights that a Career Mentor would be able to.

We want you!

As there are a number of businesses and networks popping up in this space, there are signs that more and more people are beginning to understand and put value on the importance of the Mentor/Mentee relationship. And what is even more exciting is that we can all be involved! As Mentees obviously, but as Career Mentors too. You simply need the desire to share your journey with others wanting to embark on a similar pathway.

It is worth highlighting that a Career Mentor’s role must be Mentee led, by asking questions and having a genuine interest in their journey, along with all the highs & lows that come with it. A Career Mentor cannot provide true value to the Mentee by simply telling them “This was my journey and this is how I did it.

A Career Mentor’s purpose is centred on providing insight, nurturing change, and achieving potential — not trying to provide solutions. I believe this is the key and most vital difference between a Career Coach and a Career Mentor and why you need both to achieve success.

More reading:

Job seekers: 5 golden rules to finding a mentor
3 ways to use your mentor to build your personal brand
How to find (and keep) a good mentor
3 tips for evaluating a mentor’s advice


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