Training vs. Mentoring in Project Management

While learning a new skill whether it be a new fitness workout routine or for a new job or career change, it is important to be properly trained and mentored. Enrolling in a training program or mentorship can be an extremely valuable means to increase your knowledge and excel in your project management career. It is important to decide which avenue is the best fit for you.

What is the difference between Training and Mentoring?

Training is usually provided to individuals one-on-one or in groups. These individuals can be willing participants or not. Training tends to be impersonal and hierarchical, with the flow of information and content downward one-way from the trainer to the trainee. There is usually a formal plan or schedule to cover. Training teaches you the following aspects of the job:

  • Processes
  • Regulations
  • Standards
  • Methodology
  • Skillset
  • Reporting
  • Accounting

Mentoring differs in that it is extremely personal with one-on-one attention between the mentor (seasoned, mature individual/advisor) and the mentee (inexperienced novice/junior) usually within the same profession or organization. Along with being very personal, it can be an extremely supportive arrangement where both sides are accountable, as well as confidential. The objective is for the mentor to provide information, advice, counsel, encouragement, support and feedback to the mentee, and the mentee to utilize this wealth of knowledge and resources as needed to improve and grow in their position. Mentorship teaches you the following aspects of the job:

  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Attitude
  • Leadership
  • Responsiveness
  • Acumen
  • Organizational Politics

Training can provide you with learning the basics of the job, product knowledge and rules, regulations and procedures, but it doesn’t provide that personal attention and close rapport that mentoring can offer (if you find the right match). Having that Go-To person that you can rely on and feel comfortable and safe to ask questions you might not feel comfortable asking a room full of people, is invaluable. Also, sometimes those training you can’t always provide you with cultural insight that a mentor can provide.

On an individual level:

Incorporating a well-thought out plan with both training and mentoring elements is going to provide you with a solid foundation from which to reach your project management career goals. Finding the right training courses along with matching up with a mentor is a great start. Don’t forget to ask your mentor about the training courses they took. They are a great resource to supplement your formal training.

On an organizational level:

Finally, if you run a Project Management Office (PMO) developing close-knit mentoring relationships between more experienced “wise” employees with newer staff, helps not only the flow of years of experience on the job, but also helps to carry on and pass along your corporate culture and traditions. There are also many studies that have found mentoring to be extremely valuable to not only the mentee and mentor, but the organization as a whole.