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Should you pay for mentoring?


(MoneyWatch) It's standard career advice: If you're thinking of getting into a new field, take someone in that field out for coffee and pick her brain. There are all sorts of altruistic reasons people might help you out, but the problem is that everyone is busy these days, and "you get what you pay for," says Brian Kurth, who in 2004 founded the company VocationVacations to help grown-ups do internships in intriguing fields during their days off. "If you're spending all of your time asking people for free career guidance meetings at the cost of a $2 coffee, there's not a lot of incentive for that person to a) meet with you, and b) provide you too much information for free." And you might not have many connections to people in your potential new line of work, either.

To help solve this problem, Kurth just launched a new business called PivotPlanet (for people pondering "pivoting" into new careers). The website basically offers paid mentoring from experts in a host of different fields, including composer, animal therapist, interior designer, DJ, tiny home builder, spa owner, travel writer, and other lines of work that actually sound cool when you describe them at parties. Sessions (virtual, telephone, or in-person if the expert agrees) start at $50 an hour, though a quick look at the site finds that many folks charge more than $100 an hour.

Still, this "personal and professional due diligence," as Kurth puts it, can be "significantly cheaper than going back to school, starting a business or changing careers without first having the right information and knowledge in front of you. A few 1-hour sessions may save you a ton of time and money over the long run by working with people who've 'been there and done that' and are ready to share with you what they know now that they didn't know when they first went into their profession."

And if you love your job? Offering paid mentoring could be a reasonable sideline -- but it's not just about the money. Some folks in cool jobs (children's book author, fashion magazine editor, animator, etc.) get so burnt out on being taken out for coffee by people who haven't done their research that they now refuse all such requests. Someone willing to pay $120 an hour is probably more serious -- and even if she isn't, earning $120 an hour feels a lot less like wasting time.

Would you ever pay for mentoring? Would you like to be paid for providing career guidance?

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