Winthrop Gallery: Coach or Mentor?

Fall 2019

Written by artist Paula Christen

Today we are hearing the words “Coach” and “Mentor” used frequently. Both are a valuable resource, not just for sports or business tycoons. There are thousands of links and invitations to sign up for these. So, what is the difference? Do I want or need one? Sometimes the terms are interchanged. Below are my definitions.

Coach: Typically this is a formal set up, structured with a plan to improve certain skill areas or solve problems. It is a short term, laser focused session. Most will go from 1 day to two weeks. Learn to Ballroom Dance, Beginner Pottery Class or How to Make Salsa are examples of a coach (also known as teacher or instructor). There is almost always a fee involved.

Mentor: This resource seems to have more mystery around it. A mentor is someone who is going to work with you longer in term and in an informal setting; over coffee or lunch. It is not important that they work in the same business. You’ll likely be looking at development in a broad view, both personally and professionally. With a mentor, you seek advice and guidance, over a few months, dealing more with mindset. This one to one relationship is deeper than with a coach. In my experience, mentors will have the greatest impact on you.

One young emerging artist I spoke with recently said she didn’t want to be influenced by anyone, so she was never going to take lessons. That mindset is going to make her path much harder. While lessons will speed up her technical skill, a mentor would be helpful to shift her thinking. Sometimes it is not the lack of skill that delays success but our beliefs that stand in our way.

Do you need one or both? Is there something you would like to know or master that would make your life happier or more fulfilling? Who knows 10 times more about that subject and how can I gain their knowledge? Ask. People are flattered to be asked for help and most will gladly say yes. If they say no, thank them for their time and don’t take it personally. Keep asking. When one agrees, thank them too and offer to pay for their time. You are worth the investment. There is no crime in reaching your goals sooner and with more ease.

Author: Paula Christen, professional artist 20 years and member of Winthrop Co-op Gallery. READ HER FEATURE ARTICLE HERE.