life coaching

What’s a mentor? What’s a life coach? Is there a difference?

If you’ve been confused by the terms mentor and life coach, you’re not alone! Three frequently asked questions are “What is a life coach?” “What is a mentor?” and “Is there a difference?” The terms mentor and life coach are sometimes used interchangeably and – to my way of thinking – can suggest the same things. But if you’re looking for help reaching your goals and elevating your success and satisfaction, it pays to think about what each means and how they can fit into your plans.

A mentor is most often thought of as a volunteer advisor – a wise and trusted teacher, counselor and sponsor. Mentor is the term most familiar to me but that may well be because of my age. As a mid-50s professional, mentor is a word I’ve heard and used my entire career. My first supervisors – all women – referred to themselves as mentors and offered to assist me. As a result, I’m very comfortable seeking out mentoring, as well as offering it to others. In my industry – philanthropy – the use and usefulness of volunteer mentors is well-established and I’m practically a case study. (During one pivotal mentoring relationship where I was the mentee, I advanced from a director level position to an executive level position over the course of a decade.) The women who mentored me did so because they believed in my abilities and wanted to advance my opportunities – for me and for our organizations.

Life coach is a term that was added to my lexicon in recent years. In most ways, I think of a life coach as nearly the same thing as a mentor, with the primary difference that mentors are often volunteers and life coaches are paid. To my way of thinking, life coaches connect with clients for many of the same reasons mentors connect with mentees – for what should be a mutually beneficial exchange of wisdom, teaching and support. The term “coach” suggests to some a more specific type of motivational support and logistical guidance than the term mentor, but I haven’t found that to be true in my life. My mentors frequently offered “pep talks” (usually when I most needed them) and provided intense and detailed planning support. (It’s hard, sometimes, to visualize logistics when enthusiasm or confidence is lagging, thus, the pep talk.)

So – as a women who has mentored many professionals of all ages and backgrounds in every organization I’ve worked for – for free – why did I start a life coaching business? One word: reach. Mentoring is the favorite part of my job, but also the portion I get to spend the least time on. (By the way, I’ve envisioned a position in my organization where I work as a full-time mentor to clients throughout my organization rather than just my division, but that position has yet to be realized.) By becoming a paid life coach, I’m using my experience and passion for a consulting business that allows me to do more of what I love AND devote my free time to building a track record of accomplishment in my desired future position. In that way, I’m leveraging my current circumstance to create my desired future circumstance.  

That’s a strategy that might work for you, too. Drop me an email or call me. Let’s talk about how you can turn your dream into reality by working with a life coach at EmpowerMentor. 

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