Maybe you should based on the kind of help you need (Photo credit: Snoopy.com)

I recently came across this piece by Claire Diaz-Ortiz, who leads social innovation at Twitter, on why she thinks you should be willing to pay for a mentor:

  1. It’s Hard to Get Good, Free Mentors. If you want to pitch some influencer you’ve never met — say Seth Godin or Tim Ferriss — on the notion of sitting around with you for a couple hours each month brainstorming and strategizing about your challenges in life and work for the shiny price of totally free, more power to you. Is your quest unlikely? Yes. Do some succeed? Yes.
  2. Quality Mentorship is Better than Free Mentorship. I am confident that if I were to walk out onto the streets of San Francisco’s Tenderloin right now (or any urban or rural area where folks wander around aimlessly without much to do), I could find someone to sit and talk with me for free for an hour or two.  Would that advice be useful? Maybe, or maybe not.
  3. Good Mentors Have Good Connections. When people seek mentors, they do so not only for the quality of advice that mentor will offer (and the wealth of experience they bring to that advice) but also for the connections that mentor might have. Connections are everything in business, and sometimes you need to pay for them. Better connections mean better mentors.

I have to say: I don’t think it’s a terrible idea. This is not to say that you can’t find incredible mentors without paying; I certainly have. But I think what determines whether you pay is the kind of mentor and mentoring relationship you want.

The nature of mentoring has changed: it no longer requires long hours of strategizing and can be a beneficial relationship to mentor and the mentee. The above sounds like coaching: you have a specific challenge you need support in sorting through. Having an expert help you navigate through those challenges can give you an enormous advantage, one that you should pay for. However, it might be hard to justify paying for being able to touch base with someone occasionally, to share progress and ask questions.

What do you think? Would you pay for a mentor?