Career Coach vs. Mentor Which Can Help You the Most

By John Boitnott | Jul 13, 2020
John Boitnott | ACHNET

The idea of a career coach sounds good. For a fee, an experienced person will help you develop and enact a professional, goal-oriented plan – like a fitness trainer for business.

Depending on what you think, a career coach may not be much more than a mentor you pay to see. In some cases, you may find invaluable step-by-step advice from a coach. In other cases, a mentor in your field who can provide richer insights may be what you really want.

So, what’s the difference between these two and how do you determine if you want the help of either one of them?

Coaches and mentors help in different ways.

Career coaches and mentors both provide you with experience, insights and ideas. However, they often serve very different purposes. Career coaches most commonly work with individuals hoping to make some kind of career change. They act more like guidance counselors and accountability partners to help professionals achieve changes they want to see in their careers. A coach may not actually have personal experience in your field and may not deliver insights into what you can expect in a new career role.

Mentors, on the other hand, are more likely to be industry, employer or role specific. They have personal experience in climbing the job ladder and can deliver insights into career-specific challenges and opportunities. A mentor, like a career coach, can help you identify an appropriate career path and help you outline milestones along the way, but they may be best if you like the field you’re in and aren’t looking to change it. If you’re intent on making a major career alteration, a mentor isn’t a guarantee you’ll get the guidance you seek.

Ultimately, these two types of helpers are either used for different situations or provide very different things. Before you decide against a costly career coach in favor of a “free” mentoring program – or stick with a career coach because you think you’ll get what you pay for – consider what you really need at this point in your career.

The costs and benefits of professional guidance.

If you work with a career coach, you will likely pay an upfront and out-of-pocket fee for coaching services. Prices vary widely from around $100 to several