“Umuntu ngumuntu Ngabantu.”

I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times this statement was drummed into me as a child. So much so that I can distinctly remember rolling my eyes or pretending to shoot myself in the head whenever one of my uncles or aunts felt led to recite it in both isiZulu and Setswana for me.

Looking back I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this statement rings very true. I have been extremely blessed to share space with some wise, humble, talented and very successful people who have graciously poured into my life in invaluable ways. I honestly would not be the purpose-led career woman that I am today without the gracious and wise counsel of the mentors I have had and have. 

On this #CareersTuesday we talk about the importance and benefits of mentorship and investing in yourself by enlisting the services of a career coach – your career dream team needs to consist of people who will not only help you define your dream but people who will also help/encourage you to stay the course of authentically and successfully expressing your divine purpose/calling as you navigate your chosen career path. 

So What is the Difference Between a Mentor and a Coach?

Mentor: (noun) an experienced and trusted adviser. 

Mentoring: (verb) advise and train someone.

A mentor is typically someone who shares their knowledge, skills and/or experience with the sole purpose of equipping their mentee to develop, grow and ultimately thrive in their chosen career/life path. 

The mentor/mentee relationship typically spans over a minimum of 6 -12 months with some lasting decades. Just the other day I was listening to a podcast where the host was sharing insights that they had gained from their lifelong mentor. The mentor/mentee relationship tends to be a lot more directive with the mentor doing most of the talking during the scheduled meetings. Mentorship relationships tend to be a lot less structured and fluid which is a direct contrast to a coaching relationship.

Coach: (noun)  a person who is employed by somebody to give them advice about how to achieve the things they want in their life and work. 

Unlike mentors, coaches must undergo training in coaching skills to be truly effective. Coaching relationships are often shorter-term and the meetings can last anything between ten – minutes to an hour. That said, some coaching relationships can and have lasted longer too. 

Another distinct difference between coaching and mentorship is the structure and objective of the sessions. Coaching sessions are non-directive. A good coach focuses on helping you unearth your own hidden gems by asking thought-provoking questions, creating a safe space for you (their client) to vulnerably interrogate and define their mission and vision statements. Coaching by its very essence is performance-driven and requires the person being coached to actively commit to the process of doing the work daily. 

The Five Different Types of Mentors

In his 2019 TEDxBeaconStreet talk about mentorship and leadership, Anthony Tjan, CEO of Boston venture capital firm Cue Ball Group and author of Good People said that there are five different types of mentors that we all need in our lives. 

The Master of Craft

Your Jedi master. This person must have years of experience and accumulated wisdom to provide you with insight into things about your industry. Their knowledge of you will guide them in helping you zone in and fine-tune your unique skill set. This is the person you seek advice from before launching a new professional initiative or brainstorming/mapping your career path. “They should help you identify, realize and hone your strengths towards the closest state of perfection as possible,” says Tjan.

Champion of Your Cause 

Anthony Tjan says, “These are people who are advocates and who have your back.” In other words, this is the person who will brag on you to others. Tjan believes that every working person needs to have a champion in their current workplace. While the thought of having a personal cheerleader is thrilling, this person’s role is far more than just an ego boost. Champions are often well networked and can potentially play a significant role in connecting you to key industry players.

The Copilot

Also known as, your #careerbestie. The copilot is the colleague with whom you can troubleshoot work projects. They help you navigate the various personalities and challenges, and will non-judgmentally listen to you venting. This kind of mentoring relationship is the most beneficial when it’s equally reciprocal. It is an organic you scratch my back I’ll scratch your back type of relationship. As Tjan puts it, “you are peers committed to supporting each other, collaborating, and holding each other accountable. With a co-pilot by your side, both the quality of your work and your engagement level improve.”

The Anchor

“We’re all going to hit speed bumps and go through uncertainty in life,” says Tjan. “So we need someone who can give us a psychological lift and help us see light,” he adds. The anchor doesn’t have to be someone who works in your industry. In fact, the anchor can even be a family member or friend. While they support you in achieving specific career goals, they typically also play the role of your confidante and a sounding board. The anchor is typically more invested in keeping your overall best interests in mind, and are particularly insightful when helping you set priorities, achieve work-life balance, and not lose sight of who you are and your core values.

The Reverse Mentor

Typically one thinks of a mentor as someone older and wiser than their mentee. Tjan strongly encourages one to be open to receiving wisdom and learning from the people they’re mentoring, even if they have fewer years of work experience than you. Tjan says, “Talking to my mentees gives me the opportunity to collect feedback on my leadership style, engage with the younger generation, and keep my perspectives fresh and relevant.”

The Five Different Types of Coaches 

As stated before, coaching sessions are more reflective than directive. The coach’s role is to instill knowledge by asking their clients challenging questions that are designed to lead clients on a journey to unravel certain narratives that serve to create noise and distraction from the answers that lie within.

Personal Life Coach: is coaching that is designed to assist individuals in discovering answers to big life questions based on the clients own values, preferences, and perspectives. is designed to support those who are seeking to make some form of significant personal change. A Personal Life Coaches focuses on helping clients interrogate the following;

  • Understanding what they want out of  life
  • Identify and plan towards achieving their dreams and aspirations
  • Brainstorm ways to achieve said goals
  • Highlight their clients own potential, skills, and talents

Relationship Coach: the focus of Relationship Coaching is to guide their client in naming and addressing existing and or potential relationship challenges by;

  • Interrogating assumptions
  • Naming behavioural patterns
  • Defining and setting healthy relationship boundaries
  • Learning new listening skills 
  • Assisting with ways to better express feelings and views

People who choose to embark on this type of coaching will be taught how to handle and work through conflict resolution by equipping clients with effective communication techniques, stress management techniques and ways to augment their emotional wellness.

Skills Coach; These sessions incorporate one-on-one programmes specifically designed to improve the client’s knowledge and experience. The main focus of this coaching is to assist the client in achieving both their personal and company objectives by; 

  • Identifying and defining personal career goals
  • Identifying personal and career development needs
  • Upskilling to enhance better performance linked to achieving specific tasks

Career Coach: is for both those who are just starting on their career path and those who are years into their journey. The objective of career coaching is to strategically navigate their career path and identify helps for their personal development. Career coaches assist clients in brainstorming and establishing a career action plan to enhance their employability by; 

  • Doing a skills assessment
  • Understanding of the job market/current industry trends
  • An understanding of the organisational processes
  • Identifying career opportunities 
  • Development of career transition plans

Executive Coach: is typically reserved for those in key leadership positions. Clients are invited to reflect and develop a personal awareness of their strengths and work on weaknesses or specific issues they may find challenging at that time. The Executive Coach’s role is to;

  • Enhancing performance
  • Taking talents and abilities to a new level
  • Helping someone to adjust to new situations or a transition

There’s no underplaying the rich benefits that come with having mentors and investing in the services of a coach. Take some time out this week to reflect on who you still need to add to your dream team.