Coaching and mentoring ARE different. But I advocate that you need both a coach AND mentor if you want to advance your career. These benefits are especially useful for women working in a male-dominated field, but are relevant to everyone looking to advance their careers.
First thing’s first. Let’s start with the benefits of mentoring in the workplace.
1. Internal advocacy
In the Mentoring for Women programmes I run for companies, one of the biggest benefits is the advocacy mentees eventually get from their mentors. If managed well, the mentors will go behind closed doors to actively advocate for their mentees. This is vital for getting ahead, and a really important reason you need internal senior mentors, which I help all of my clients find.
2. Wider perspective
Because a mentor is likely experienced in areas you aren’t yet, they can widen your eyes to possibilities you wouldn’t normally consider - like a new team in your current organisation, or turning from one side of a transaction to another, like in finance going from buy-to-sell side. As part of that type of career mentoring, they may even help you identify which parts of your sector are growing fastest - as rapidly expanding teams are always looking for good people.
3. Fewer career mistakes
A mentor is usually someone who’s in your sector, maybe even done you job - someone whose been there done that and can help you avoid hard mistakes. While this is great for anyone, this inside track is vital for professional women in particular, and a key part of the work I do as a part of my online career coaching. So if all of that comes from a mentor - what’s the use of an executive coach? Well, for most of my clients - it’s often the one time all month they get to strategically think about where are headed and how to get there faster and with more options. But I’d say the real benefits of coaching in the workplace boil down to these 3 things.
It’s 6:30am and raining - do you know how you’re more likely to drag yourself out of bed to go to the gym if a friend is meeting you? Well, while none of our online coaching sessions will take place at 6:30, I’m like that ‘career friend’ - the person who holds you accountable. So while coaches brainstorm throughout a coaching session as to the activities you’ll do between now and your next session, a coach will say in that next session - ‘how’d you get on with your homework’? Coaches help keep your actions on track because good intentions alone don’t make for a kick-ass career.
2. External perspective
Executive coaches like me, aren’t wedded to you staying with a particular employer or even a particular sector. Coaches help you look wider, across sectors, potentially even to current clients or competitors. Because of the range of companies I’ve worked with - I share observations with my clients based on what I’ve seen in other employers, so you don’t have any more of those ‘Is this just me?’ doubts.
3. Objective outsider
You probably have a lot of friends, and if you’re lucky someone in your family you can take issues home to - but the people who love us also have their own ideas of ‘what’s best for us’. Because coaches have got no skin in your game, they’re less wedded to any one plan of action - other than the one you want to pursue. I certainly challenge my clients to ensure it is the right path for them, but I don’t try to encourage or dissuade them based on what’s best for me.
So now, you can see why coaching and mentoring are different, but both vital for getting you the career you want. Ideally, you’d have both - and with the people I work with - we ensure you get a range of mentors in the very skills you need to build.
If you want to find out more about coaching and mentoring, I’ve got a whole playlist dedicated to the Benefits of Coaching and Mentoring on YouTube.
Suzanne Doyle-Morris, Author, Speaker & Gender Balance Expert for 25+ years.
Hear what I told BBC Radio about what to do about the worsening gender pay gap data