Mentorship

Executive Career Coach VS Mentor: Who Do You Need?

Meeting with a mentor or career coach

If you’re looking to make a career move, you’re likely to turn to a professional to help you take the right next steps. At Ivy Exec, we are often asked when you need a mentor’s help and when you need an Executive Career Coach.

In a nutshell, a mentor is someone in your field who can help you prepare for common career milestones. A career coach, on the other hand, is more of a career generalist, who can help you develop the accountability and timelines you need to explore new fields, compile your application materials, and plan a career change. In this article, we’ll discuss common scenarios when you might connect with each type of expert.

When Should You Speak to a Career Coach or a Mentor?

Scenario: You need new networking opportunities in your field.

Seek out: a Mentor

Perhaps you’ve moved to a new city where you know few people in your industry. Or maybe you want to advance but don’t know many high-level executives in your field. A mentor can help you figure out the best ways to meaningfully connect with others in your industry.

Scenario: You need another pair of eyes on your resume and cover letter.

Seek out: a Career Coach

Meeting with a career coachA mentor isn’t a paid professional but rather someone in your field willing to help you build your career. So, you shouldn’t ask mentors to read your application materials besides as an additional pair of eyes for fine-tuning purposes. Instead, career coaches are experts in telling stories with resumes; they’re also up to date on modern application expectations that differentiate your materials from other candidates’ while still meeting industry expectations.

Scenario: You’re looking for an executive position in another field.

Seek out: a Mentor

Let’s say you’re interested in exploring a different field but don’t necessarily want to drop down a few rungs on the career ladder to do it. Seek out a mentor who has always transferred their skills and expertise from one field to another. A mentor can help you envision what you need to do for your next career move – because they’ve done the same thing .

Scenario: You’re unhappy with your current position and don’t know what to do next.

Seek out: a Career Coach

If you’re looking to change jobs, a career coach can help. While a career coach doesn’t necessarily have expertise in your field, their role is to provide accountability tools that keep you motivated in your search. They may ask you questions about your motivations and passions that lead you in a more satisfying direction. They may also ask you to plan a timeline for how long you’re willing to stay in your current position.

Scenario: You need help creating a five-year plan for your career.

Seek out: a Career Coach

Goal planning can be daunting if you have to go it alone. You may feel demotivated by the sheer scale of a project like this or you may not know what should be included in such a plan. A career coach can both help you develop your long-term plans and create measurable milestones along the way. Some career coach/mentee relationships last for years, meaning that you’ll check in with each other regularly enough to see these plans come to fruition.

Scenario: You want to determine new advancement strategies for someone in your field.

Seek out: a Mentor

You want to make sure you’re achieving the professional history and development necessary for someone who rises to the highest ranks in your field. Seek out a mentor who can both explain what they did to advance through the field and help you map out a series of career advancements that are common for executives in your industry.

Scenario: You want to vent to someone about the struggles you’re having in advancing in your field.

Seek out: a Career coach

If you are frustrated about your current situation, a career coach can help. Some career coaches are like workplace counselors, who encourage you to vent to them about your dissatisfaction with your advancement difficulties. At the same time, they can review your application materials and interview preparation to make sure you’re doing everything you can to secure the promotion you’re seeking.


Both mentors and career coaches play a significant role in your advancement and satisfaction in your career. As you climb the corporate ladder, you might find that fewer coaches are equipped to consider your unique set of challenges, career planning strategy, and advancement goals. Ivy Exec’s Executive Career Coaching is specifically designed for senior-level executives. Packages include coaching hours, resume and LinkedIn profile updates, and all-access membership to Ivy Exec.

Director James S. shares his experience working with a career coach: “Now my resume definitely tells a story. It looks much better than it did previously and has more pop. I also appreciated the additional services my writer provided – preparing for an interview, communicating my story, and delivering my elevator pitch.”

If it sounds like mentoring would be a better fit for your needs, be sure to check out Ivy Exec’s Mentorship Program!


About the Author

Ivy Exec is the premier resource for professionals seeking career advancement. Whether you are on the job, or looking for your next one - Ivy Exec has the tools you need.