Using Mentorship to Advance your career By Karie Willyerd HBR Blog Network

Engage a Mentor with a Short-Term Project One of the top reasons mentoring relationships fail is that the mentor and protégé do not connect with each other...

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Engage a Mentor with a Short-Term Project

One of the top reasons mentoring relationships fail is that the mentor and protégé do not connect with each other on an interpersonal level. The micro-mentor engagement (where you approach a mentor with a specific goal or project in mind), allows a try-before-buying opportunity, should you ever be in the market for a longer-term mentor. However, you just might find that getting known by a half dozen or so key experts in the company over the next year through micro-mentors is the best way to increase your skill-set and help you find your next career opportunity.

How should you structure a micro-mentoring relationship? Here are six tips for this special kind of mentoring engagement:

  1. 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.
  2. 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. Alternatively, your company might have a searchable directory you can access. One of the best ways to connect with people in your own company is LinkedIn, so try looking there as well.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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. If you felt you seriously connected with your mentor and you’d like a longer engagement, define it as completely new and give them a graceful way to decline if they don’t have the time. If they’re interested, they will respond enthusiastically. Link to original article –   
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