by Karie Willyerd, Harvard Biz Review, 2/21/14.
“There is such a thing as ‘micro-mentoring’ and you should try it.”
… According to a survey conducted by SuccessFactors in 2012, the number one benefit Millennials request upon being hiring is to receive a mentor. Yet the experience of many mentors, especially those in limited supply such as senior executive women, is that the free-range scope of most mentoring engagements presents a time commitment and emotional investment that prevents having more than one or two protégés at a time. That puts suitable mentors in short supply for young workers. How can you improve the likelihood that you will get access to the best possible mentor? As Jeanne Meister and I discussed in the HBR Guide to Getting the Mentoring You Need, one way to improve the odds of getting the mentor you want is to be sensitive to their limited time through a short engagement. Think really short, as in, less than a month — in essence, a micro-mentor…
Here are six tips for this special kind of mentoring engagement:
- Set targeted goals. Select one or two critical goals to focus on, and identify ways of measuring success. There’s nothing more draining for a mentor than a growing list of nonspecific goals and no end in sight.
- Find the right person. Look for someone expert enough, but not so expert that they’ve lost the ability to connect with someone at your level. You want someone just out of your league — barely. If you don’t know someone directly, use your network of peers and your manager to find someone…
- Identify your role. Be precise about your goals and your commitment to drive the relationship. Explain your role in the relationship, and what you plan to do during the engagement, whether that’s assisting the mentor in specific projects, shadowing the mentor, or having regular discussions. By doing so, you will stand out in stark contrast to those who simply ask someone to mentor them.
- Define the time commitment. The more specific you can be, the better. Using the example of someone asking for experience working with customers, you might ask to shadow the expert for one visit with a customer and for the mentor to respond to two structured one-hour interviews over the next month.
- Leverage the mentor’s time. Consider buddying up with one or two other peers who have expressed the same interest. The mentor gets bigger bang for the buck, and you gain visibility as a group that pursues professional growth. Your targeted mentor also earns a reputation for nurturing talent.
- Stick to your word. Don’t extend the time commitment uninvited or fail to do the things you’ve agreed upon. Instead, at the end of the engagement, thank your mentor and express your appreciation. Ask them if they’d suggest another area you should be developing and who they might suggest as a mentor…
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