What is mentoring?

Laura Curran defines what mentoring is, and how it differs from coaching

What people get out of mentoring will always vary, depending on the situation and people involved. A fairly simple way to define mentoring is: “help by one person to another in making significant transitions in knowledge, work and thinking”*.

Mentoring shouldn’t be confused with coaching, where people work towards specific goals using powerful coaching conversations to come up with solutions. A coach doesn’t need specific knowledge to help you find your answers, whereas a mentor usually has subject matter expertise.


Mentoring is a great way for new staff and volunteers to quickly build knowledge and understanding. It can also really help people take a longer term look at their development and career and help them overcome barriers.

If you are trying to develop your own management skills, then mentoring can bring a lot to your own personal development. It can also be an incredibly rewarding experience.

Mentoring is an important part of any learning and development programme and organisations should encourage people at all levels to become a mentor, a mentee, or both.

*Megginson & Clutterbuck, 1995.

About the author

Laura Curran is an organisational development consultant. She works with local and central government as well as non-profit organisations to improve working practices. Laura is passionate about aligning strategy to organisational development, managing talent and developing leadership. She favours informal methods of learning over the more traditional ‘chalk and talk’. Laura is the winner of a Coaching Culture Award 2022 for building a coaching culture within a non-profit social care enterprise. She believes that everyone should have the opportunity to progress, and that the power of learning from each other is immeasurable. Mentoring, she says, can support people’s ability to develop and grow – now more than ever. She advocates that organisations embrace the process from new starter to CEO.