Professional mentoring and coaching has become a big business of late, and the process is becoming increasingly formalised. Mentoring and coaching enable more established or senior professionals to share their experiences and advice with younger or more junior workers, and large numbers of organisations are recognising how valuable that transfer of knowledge can be.
The difference between coaching and mentoring
Coaching and mentoring differ in a number of ways. According to the Chartered Managers Institute, “while mentoring and coaching both involve conversations which aim to help individuals manage their own learning and development…coaching is more likely to deal with specific tasks and skills that can be mastered and measured, while mentoring tends to focus on longer-term development or progress. Coaching is usually carried out by a line manager or a professional coach, while mentoring is almost always carried out of the line, often by a self-selected volunteer. Mentoring relationships may last for a set period of time or continue on an ongoing basis.”
Why coaching and mentoring are valuable
Executive career coach Hilary Wilson says the value of professional coaching and mentoring has grown as the workforce and job landscape has changed. “The career ladder as we once knew it has now smashed to the ground and become a career lattice,” she says. “It is flatter and there are a lot more opportunities – but we need to spot them… Job security only exists inside of us now, it doesn’t exist out there externally,” she says. “To create that security I think we need two things – skills the marketplace wants and needs, but also the ability to self-market those skills. At a time like this we need to be clear about our values, our key transferrable skills, our achievements and the benefits we bring. It’s about being able to sell yourself based very firmly on facts and evidence.”
When to use a mentor or coach
Coaching and mentoring can be useful at any time but there are some particular key times of transition when a coach or mentor would be especially helpful:
- Returning to work after parental leave
- In the lead-up to retirement
- Feeling bored and de-motivated
- Stuck at a crossroads
- Been overlooked for a key project or role
- Wanting to (or are forced to) move out of your comfort zone
Career guru John Lees adds that the career coaching that happens when times are good can often be the most helpful. “I find the most rewarding careers coaching is with people who are not under pressure to take a new job and have a bit of time to reflect and reposition themselves,” he says. “It can involve a bit of personal development and listening and exploring other avenues – but not the crushing pressure of having to earn another income.”
The Institute of Managers and Leaders offers Professional Members access to Member Exchange, a free four-month mentoring program that provides an ideal opportunity to share your skills as a Mentor or learn from others as a Mentee. For more information, click here.