Consultant Versus Mentor: What's the Difference?

When you encounter a complicated or challenging situation, whom do you go to first? Do you call a friend? An experienced colleague? Someone you trust and look up to?

Whomever it is, asking for help is the right thing to do.

If you're running a business, you know how important it is to seek help from external professionals like consultants, mentors, and coaches. They have the experience and expertise that can save people time and money.

Now if you consider yourself an expert in a chosen field or someone with years of industry experience, you might think of ways to take your career or business to the next level.

You have two options: being a consultant or mentor.

How do they differ from each other? Which option is best for you?  What are the steps to becoming a consultant or mentor? In this blog, I'm going to give you the answers you're looking for.

The difference between a Consultant vs Mentor
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What is a Consultant?

As a consultant, you must be an industry expert who does certain tasks in a business. You proactively provide advice or suggestions to professionals and business owners.

When working with a client, you understand and analyze the context of the situation or problem before you advise the best course of action. But you don't involve yourself to work out the solution itself.

Types of Consultants

  • Business Consultant: This refers to an advisor who finds lapses and bottlenecks in a business's operation. An entrepreneur might seek your help to improve their performance, efficiency, whatever.
  • Sales Consultant: A sales consultant is responsible for developing better sales processes, and identifying ways to boost sales performance. Sometimes, they also offer sales training to a sales team.
  • Marketing Consultant: If a business needs help to attract more prospects and get more customers, they have to hire a marketing consultant.
  • Accounting Consultant: This is someone who analyzes an organization's financials and provides guidance for better financial decision-making.
  • Technology Consultant: Businesses need an expert like a technology consultant who improves their efficiency through technical advice and solutions.
  • Legal Consultant: This is typically a legal professional who guides and assists a company on a specific legal matter.
  • Public Relations Consultant: If a business needs to improve their public image and gain more publicity, they hire a PR consultant.

What are the qualifications for a consultant?

The qualifications for consultants are quite subjective and flexible. But if you're interested in pursuing a consulting business, you must possess the following:

  • A bachelor's degree (often paired with an advanced degree)
  • Certification from an industry organization
  • Years of experience in the niche you're working in

Aside from the basics, you must also consider what your prospects and clients value from a consultant.

How can you become a consultant?

Choose an area of expertise.

Take some time to assess yourself. What are your strengths? Skills you can further develop?

Now if you have a few ideas in mind, answer these questions:

  • Can I provide valuable advice and knowledge in this certain niche?
  • Do I have the experience to be considered an authority figure in this field?
  • Is there a demand for this industry?

Overall, think about all the areas you excel in or projects where you get the most positive feedback. Most importantly, consider the things you're most passionate about.

Set your goals.

Consulting is business. You can't just dive in and start looking for prospects. Set your goals and create a clear path you want to follow. Do you want to make it a part-time or full-time business? Do you see yourself working with your own team?

Become certified.

It's true that certifications have their own perks. They prove that you've met a certain standard of competence, which gives you an edge over other consultants. And you can get one depending on your niche. For instance, if you're aiming to be a marketing coach, you can get a 1-Page Marketing Plan Certification from Successwise.

Pick your target market.

Aside from choosing your niche, you should also pick your target market. And make sure that you know them very well by answering these questions.

  • Where do they live?
  • What are their pain points?
  • Who are you targeting? Businesses or professionals?
  • What motivates your target market?
  • Who are your competitors?

Expand your network.

One of the most effective ways to get clients is through networking. Meaning, you need to engage with your target market—even if all of them won't seek your services. Also, it's great to connect with other consultants.

Create a system for attracting and getting clients.

You can't just sit and wait for a miracle to happen. You need a strategy for finding, attracting, and closing clients.

Become a transformational consultant

What is a mentor?

A mentor focuses on helping a person (mentee) and not on helping to solve a certain issue or situation. It's generally a leadership role.

They act as trusted guides and advisors. They've usually worked in a management or leadership position and have faced the same challenges as their mentees, which makes them qualified to share knowledge and experience with their mentees.

Basically, if you're the type of person who always shares "Been there, done that" solutions and have achieved success, you're probably fit to become a mentor.

As a mentor, you have to inspire and build your client's trust. This makes it easier for them to share their concerns and goals with you.

Types of Mentors

  • Traditional Mentors: This refers to general mentoring. It can be a senior and a seasoned professional, who earned more years of experience than you do in a certain field.
  • Reverse Mentors: As the name suggests, it's the complete opposite of a traditional mentor when it comes to age. This refers to a young professional who has gained more experience and has proven expertise in a specific industry. If you want to be one, you must be open to working with senior professionals.
  • Peer Mentors: If you're still working in a corporate environment, you can present yourself as a peer mentor to a colleague. Just make sure both of you have the same level of responsibility, and often encounter the same types of issues and situations.
  • Aspirational Mentors: Can you mentor someone in one sitting and genuinely inspire them to make a change? Then you must be an aspirational mentor. This focuses on inspiring someone to do what works effectively for them.
  • Practical Mentors: If you can provide pragmatic, tangible advice that someone can apply immediately, then consider being a practical mentor.
  • Coping Mentors: This refers to a mentor who finds ways to help a person cope with stressful situations. In this specialization, you have to be a great listener.
  • Identity Mentors: If you want to mentor someone on how to adapt or understand a certain group, this is the right specialization for you.

What are the qualifications for a mentor?

Just like in consulting, the qualifications vary. But the bare minimum for mentoring still stands to be a degree holder, certified by a recognized organization, and years of experience in a leadership or management position.

How can you become a mentor?

Create a plan.

Before you become a certified mentor, you should know what value you can provide through mentoring. Think of your objectives once you enter this field. Then, make a list of resources and other investments you need. How much time and money are you willing to invest?

Choose a specific area you want to mentor in.

So how do you set mentorship areas you want to focus on? You can simply list all the areas you're good at and consider the knowledge and skills you want to share.

Choose a mentee.

When becoming a professional mentor, it's important to choose the right mentee. Make sure they'll find value in your service and they can benefit from your guidance.

Start mentoring.

Once you've picked your mentee, start working together. It's important to discuss and set rules, schedules, goals, and everything you need to make the mentorship effective.

Hold your mentee accountable.

As you guide and support your mentee, watch for improvement and follow up for changes or updates. This strengthens your relationship with your client and makes the program effective.

Make changes and improvements.

Mentorship is a continuous learning experience. As your mentee learns from you, you also learn from them. It's give-and-take. Remember, you can only get better at it through experience and practice.

Become a certified mentor

What's the difference between a consultant and a mentor?

Consultants and mentors differ in five general areas. Understanding these differences will determine how you approach training, developing new projects, building relationships, and establishing your process.

1. Scope

Consulting requires less time because it's straightforward. For example, a client has a certain problem in the workplace and the consultant will be brought in to fix it. When it’s done, it's done. There's no constant communication between the two parties unless there's repeat business.

On the other hand, mentoring requires more time to build a strong mentor-mentee relationship because it’s built on mutual trust and respect. Unlike consulting, this covers a mentee’s different aspects of life, whether about their business or career.

2. Goal/Purpose

Consultants solve specific and tangible goals. They also help their clients develop specific skills to achieve the goals on their own. Their job is done once they've accomplished this.

Meanwhile, instead of aiming to achieve a certain goal, mentors are there to guide the mentee until they change for the better. They’re focused on improving a mentee’s skills, attitude and mindset.

3. Area of Focus

A consultant looks at the big picture. For example, business consultants help to come up with solutions in the workplace.

On the other hand, mentors simply focus on one person at a time. They spend time and effort to hone their mentee’s skills through personal development.

4. Approach

Let's say consultants prefer keeping things systemized. They utilize certain agendas when meeting a client. For example, an established business hires a marketing consultant. They want to know how to set up a sales funnel and rework their campaigns. In short, the approach is formal and mostly involves professional or work-related concerns.

Mentoring involves a strong mentor-mentee relationship. Mentors work with mentees on a personal level. At times, a mentee’s personal issues come into play and are worked through. The relationship is comparable to a close family member or a colleague who offers some help and expert advice.

5. Experience

Consultants simply focus on solving the problem or doing a certain task, then that's it. They don't have to further involve themselves in someone's business. And they can have clients from different industries. A prospect can seek consulting services unless it requires specific skills.

This is quite the opposite of mentorship. As I said, mentors are personally involved with their mentees. Mentors need to be more experienced and qualified than their client in the same field. This gives mentors an edge to guide and support their mentee.

Where does a coach stand?

Now that you know the difference between mentorship and consulting, where does coaching stand?

Let's define coaching first.

ICF's default definition of coaching is "partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential."

Now what makes it different? Here are the top characteristics of a coach.

  • A coach works equally with a professional or a business owner. They partner with people to help find answers and solutions. Coaching doesn't tolerate spoon feeding; coaches offer extra support and advice to help people discover goals.
  • A coach provides accountability. In a coaching program, they usually create a plan or strategy that both parties must implement and follow. Coaches also provide a solid support system to help individuals improve and move forward.
  • Coaches don't involve themselves in the past. If you're a business owner seeking help from a coach, you stay in the present and future. Coaches focus on the current situation you're in and where you’re heading.
Become a certified coach

Do they overlap?

Yes, they do. This is one of the reasons why the terms coaching, mentorship, and consulting are often used interchangeably.

They all have a common denominator: to offer individuals, companies, and organizations help.

So sometimes, you'll see a business coach who also offers a bit of mentoring. And a mentor will say that they also offer life coaching services. A consultant may focus on one-off projects but they can also become a coach if a business owner needs their help in the long term.The thing is, help can be offered and manifested in a lot of ways. This is largely what makes them different from one another. If you're still undecided on which road you want to take, consider answering these questions:

  • Whom do you want to work with? Are you open to working with everyone or do you prefer working with people in the same field as yours?
  • What projects do you want to work on? One-off, short-term, or long-term projects?
  • Do you want to provide the answers and solutions? Or do you only want to support your clients in finding the answers and solutions on their own?
  • Do you want to focus on a problem or a person?

Take it to the next level.

Give yourself a moment to assess what you want to do and whom you want to be. Are you ready for some action?

Learn how to become a coach, consultant or mentor through my 12-week certification training and:

  • Get access to private weekly live training
  • Read and use my team’s library of SOPs
  • Earn an official certification after finishing the program
  • Be part of our reseller program (Course and Recruitment Service)
  • And more!

I've worked with a lot of business owners throughout the years and helped them get the results they want to achieve.  I’d love to help you fulfill your personal, business and career goals too. Let’s see if my coaching certification program is the right fit for you. Learn more here.

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