Paying for a mentor? STOP!

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The term mentoring is defined as the act of helping, advising and teaching a less experienced person, who is usually younger in age. Essentially, you are sharing your knowledge and experience with someone who will benefit from it. Whether formal or informal, mentoring requires giving your time in addition to your skills and expertise.

Though the original meaning refers to a voluntary relationship, nowadays, there are a lot of paid mentorships –some at significantly high costs. This usually involves some kind of business training and education.

Training or mentoring? The difference between training and mentoring is that the training process is clearly defined, and there is an expected outcome. Mentoring is a more long-term process where the focus is not on abstract learning, but on your specific situation and any challenges you are facing. Here, two-way interaction is very important, and you are effectively utilising the mentor’s experience and wisdom in order to tackle your situation.

Business training and education are definitely important and have their place, especially if you don’t have the time or inclination for self-learning. But is it really mentoring? In my opinion, it definitely is not!

A mentor is a person who helps you through guidance and advice, strictly due to the goodness of his/her heart, as a part of philanthropic giving back to the community –not because he/she is being paid for it. Mentoring should come from a volunteering spirit; it should not be attached to a monetary fee.

Here is my case against paid mentoring:

  • It shifts the focus from giving: Paid mentors usually do not have the same commitment to the mentee (or protégé) as someone who is in it strictly to help people. The focus is shifted from a giving relationship to watching the clock and fulfilling the terms of the agreement.
  • It affects the long-term relationship: The relationship between a mentor and the mentee should ideally be long-term. One has to know a person really well to be of help to him. In fact, some mentoring relationships end up in life long friendships. Having a paid relationship can affect this. What happens if the mentee only has enough finances for a few short sessions? What happens if the mentee decides after a single session that he is not getting good value for his money?
  • It makes mentoring a “task” or a “job”: The minute you are charging a fee for a service, it becomes a task or a job. This can even attract the wrong sort of person – someone who is only interested in getting paid; someone who will try to get away with minimal investment of time and effort. Mentoring is not easy – it requires time, patience and a good sense of humour. A person who does not have these qualities can find it difficult to deal with the situation.

A priceless relationship
The basic idea of mentoring is to make the mentee realise that he/she is not alone in this, that someone else has made the same journey and come out successful. Keeping someone from repeating one’s own mistakes, helping them avoid similar pitfalls is priceless. Now how can you really put a price on that?

For those of you out there who are pitching your education and training as ‘mentoring’ – shame on you. For those of you looking for a mentor, be careful of paying for services that don’t really fulfil the full scope of what a mentor would. Ultimately a mentor is someone who should support you for many years, find someone who has that kind of dedication and is willing to do it because they are invested in your success, not having you invest in their financial success.

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