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Mentoring is a personal development tool in which a less experienced professional seeks the advice, counsel and support of an experienced professional. Unlike training, which is done by a supervisor or trainer as part of a mandatory skills education program, mentoring is a relationship between two people in the same profession, with one person taking the role of teacher and the other taking the role of student.
The main difference between mentoring and training is the nature of the relationship involved. A mentor-mentee relationship is personal, confidential and friendly; a trainer-trainee relationship is impersonal, social and hierarchical. Typically, one mentor is responsible for one mentee, whereas one trainer may be responsible for an entire group of students. The result is that a mentoring relationship is much more intimate than a training relationship.
Motivation is a major objective in mentoring. This is not necessarily the case in training. Though a mentor is responsible for dispensing valuable lessons to his mentee, he is also expected to provide encouragement and support. A trainer, on the other hand, is expected to deliver a content-based lesson as effectively as possible. A trainer could become a motivating force in his students' lives, but it is not necessarily a priority for him to do so.
The role of advice is another difference between mentoring and training. In mentoring, advice is long-term, practical counsel intended to help the mentee reach her long term goals. In training, advice is limited to points of guidance pertaining to the execution of specific duties. Mentors provide career advice; trainers provide job advice.
Mentoring is typically longer in duration than training. A mentoring relationship may last months or even years, but a training session typically lasts no longer than a few weeks. Of course, this depends on the industry in which the mentors and trainers work. In some fields, such as policing, training takes the form of long-term academy curriculum, in which trainers may supervise trainees for more than a year.
The benefits of mentoring and training are quite different. Mentoring provides mentors and mentees with mutual support; the mentor gets a sense of satisfaction from being seen as a source of wisdom, while the mentee gets invaluable advice and a go-to person with whom to discuss challenges and setbacks. Training generally provides a simpler kind of support; the trainer gets the pleasure of teaching and instructing, and the trainee gets practical know-how.
Based in St. John's, Canada, Andrew Button has been writing since 2008, covering politics, business and finance. He has contributed to newspapers and online magazines, including "The Evening Telegram" and cbc.ca. Button is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Memorial University in St. John's.