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Coaching or Mentoring?


Not that many years ago it wasn't very cool to have a coach for personal development. It was seen as somewhat of a weakness if you sought out a coach for help. Today, it's different. You want to learn and grow because you're after increased effectiveness. It's cool to have a coach.

On the other hand, mentors have been a big part of personal and professional networks throughout our lives. These relationships continue to be a vital part of our development and the quality of our lives. Mentors are mindful in assisting on your journey to sustained excellence.

Very often the terms coaching and mentoring are used interchangeably. With more consideration, we discover these are two different ways to support personal and professional development. If you're considering a coach or mentor it's important to know some of the differences between each to align with your goals and expectations. Here are just a few key points...

Coaching supports individual skill development, performance, and clarity alongside specific goals. Coaches typically work on a more short-term basis with a focus on progress in the present for future success. Coaches are like a GPS, they help you find your way with targeted support on a specific challenge. During a few weeks or months, structured conversations help chart a path to success.

Mentoring is a long-term relationship providing supportive guidance. Mentors share life experiences, knowledge, and wisdom aimed toward career goals. With a close relationship, mentoring can be informal and based on common values and interests. Mentors are like a compass, they offer you direction with comprehensive guidance. Over a longer period that can encompass years, they provide advice, wisdom, and support for navigating the journey of a professional career.

Coaching relies on several techniques to assist with achieving goals. These include open-ended questions, active listening, and perspective shifting. They're focused on your readiness for change. They also can give feedback, assign homework, and act as a "success partner".


  • Aim toward skill development for a specific goal
  • "Success partner" with supporting structures
  • Personalized feedback and suggestions for change

Mentorship is more relational and is rooted in sharing life experiences and deeper insights. Advice is offered through storytelling and they often become a sounding board as the relationship strengthens. They are keenly aware that the mentee decides if they are right for them. Mentors will often recommend someone else if the relationship doesn't have the desired fit.


  • Develop long-term relationships and networks
  • Offer advice, support, and guidance over time
  • Provides a sounding board for ideas, challenges, and opportunities

    Getting clarity on the type of support and/or guidance you desire will set you on the path to improving strengths and building key relationships for greater success.

Having a coach is cool!


Engaging a mentor is mindful!

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The Extension Foundation was formed in 2006 by Extension Directors and Administrators. Today, the Foundation partners with Cooperative Extension through liaison roles and a formal plan of work with the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) to increase system capacity while providing programmatic services, and helping Extension programs scale and investigate new methods and models for implementing programs. The Foundation provides professional development to Cooperative Extension professionals and offers exclusive services to its members. In 2020 and 2021, the Extension Foundation has awarded 85% of its direct funding back to the Cooperative Extension System, 100% of funds are used to support Cooperative Extension initiatives. 

This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Agriculture Extension grant no. 2020-41595-30123 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and membership funding. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the content are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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