Comparison of Mentor & Guide Roles

©1992, Barry Sweeny


The following chart is to illustrate how I differentiated between the jobs of the Mentor (working with a protege with a year or less recent experience), and a Guide (working with a protege who has more than a year of recent previous experience).

This approach was used for the four years that I was the coordinator of both the Mentor and Guide Programs at an organization in Wheaton, Illinois, and worked very flexibly and well. Specifically, the benefits of this dual role system are listed below, but also include greater flexibility in matching support providers to proteges when less-than-ideal matches must be made. Further, if a stipend is attached to the mentoring role, you may get complaints or even union grievances when using only a mentor role, and when two different mentors are each assigned proteges, but where one protege is more experienced and easier to mentor than another.

The basic concept behind this roles structure is to:

  • Reserve provision of intensive support and guidance for professional growth to the role of the mentor
  • Provide experienced people with just the right amount of assistance for their needs
  • Conserve your scarce program resources (generally it’s harder to get mentors than guides).

The diagram illustrates that BOTH the mentor and guide will help with location-specific orientation and assistance, and with a friendly supportive relationship, but that ONLY the mentor also provides assistance designed to facilitate the protege’s professional development.

A MENTORdoes #1, #2 and #3 1. A Helper Role Orientation to the:

  • Building
  • Organization
  • Community
  • Traditions & culture
  • Expectations
A GUIDEdoes #1 and #2
2. A Collegial Role A friend, listener & confidante
3. A Role Model Challenging & facilitating the professional growth of another employeeActing as a one-to-one staff developer and coach

Modeling the continuous search to be the best employee possible, through openness to feed back & learning from others.