New! Research Staff Micro-mentoring scheme

There is such a thing as a free lunch – and great advice to go with it!

What is the ‘micro-mentoring’ scheme?

The micro-mentoring scheme is intended to offer researchers at Manchester a structured opportunity to gain valuable advice from more experienced colleagues, without having to commit to a lengthy mentoring relationship. The latest CROS Survey revealed that while majority of Research Staff would like to be mentored, they also feel that the amount of time that they have to commit to their professional development is limited. Therefore, the scheme has been designed to fit into the busy schedules of both researchers and their potential mentors, and allows mentees the chance to take advice from a range of more experienced colleagues, rather than working with one mentor over an extended period of time.

The scheme is not intended to function as an alternative for other mentoring arrangements offered by schools, faculties or research councils and nor is it intended to be a substitute for proper research supervision or line-management. Rather, the scheme is intended to complement existing provision, and provide researchers with alternative perspectives, sources of advice and encouragement.

How does the scheme work?

The University has a number of lunch vouchers for researchers to invite a potential ‘mentor’ to have lunch with them in order to discuss a particular issue associated with the mentee’s work or career planning. The ‘mentor’ can be anyone that the researcher believes has the relevant expertise to offer advice in a particular area –  for instance, a member of academic staff at another University, a member of non-academic staff from Manchester University, a visiting scholar, someone from industry or another sector that the researcher is interested in hearing more about. Lunches may be taken at either Christie’s Bistro or the Mumford Restaurant (Sackville Street).

The fact that mentees are expected to identify and approach their own mentors is an important part of the scheme and is intended to ensure that mentor/mentee matches are as productive as possible.

Potential topics/areas for discussion might include:

  • Making a grant application
  • Making the move from Research Assistant to PI
  • Work/life balance and/or time management
  • Managing a research career and planning a family
  • Teaching approaches
  • The admin (or ‘service’) aspects of an academic role
  • Getting published (books or journals)
  • Getting the most from your time as a researcher at Manchester
  • Whether academia is right for you

For more information about the scheme, how to apply, how to prepare for a mentoring lunch and soem tips for approaching a potential mentor see

Guidance for mentors and mentees


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3 thoughts on “New! Research Staff Micro-mentoring scheme

  1. This scheme is a good start, but kinda misses the point: finding an appropriate mentor match is probably the single most difficult part of building a mentor-mentee relationship.
    The problem is particularly difficult to solve for new member of staff who may, for instance, have recently moved from another institution, if not another country.
    The local network of these people is often limited to their direct supervisor and the few colleagues sharing their office. These usually do not constitute appropriate mentors, due to obvious conflicts of interest.
    Currently available networking events within the University are usually geared towards meeting people with similar research interests (conferences, seminars, etc.), or interested in learning the same skills (training events). Again, not necessarily the best place to find an appropriate mentor.
    The micro-mentoring scheme would be much more useful if complemented with a specific networking platform for potential mentees to meet potential mentors: this could be a real-life networking event, or an online platform, e.g. in the form of a classified advertisement page.

    I also believe the “vertical” mentor-mentee distinction is not always relevant: professional advice and support can also be transferred horizontally between mutual “work buddies”. This kind of “mutual coaching” should be encouraged (as the problem with mentor-mentees relationships is usually that there is much more potential mentees than potential mentors)

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  2. Hi,

    You make some good points, especially about looking to peers to provide coaching or mentoring, and there are certainly some situations in which discussions with a peer would be MUCH more useful than discussion with an aged professor who has much more experience but little sense of the difficulties involved in entering academia now.

    Just to address a couple of your points:

    – It would certainly be possible for a researcher to take a peer to lunch as part of this scheme if the proposed topic of discussion was appropriate.

    – We deliberately decided not to ‘match’ people for several reasons. The first is that we wanted to challenge researchers to develop their networking skills through identifying and approaching their own mentors. The University has details of all of its academic (and other) staff on the directory or website, so people ought to be able to find themselves an appropriate potential mentor. Secondly, we don’t have the resources to manage a database of mentors and mentees so ‘matching’ is not possible. Thirdly, there are other mentoring schemes at Manchester that will match you with a mentor if they can (you’re right that there are oten more mentees than mentors). Fourthly, it is possible to approach an academic (or other member of staff) from another university (perhaps who is in Manchester to give a talk, or who works at another local institution) to be a micro-mentor. Managing a database or arranging a meeting which includes all of the possible mentors that one could approach would be a huge (if not impossible) undertaking. There will however, be other events that will bring together people who are interested in mentoring which might provide a place for mentees to meet potential mentors (and for mentors to receive some guidance and training).

    I hope that helps – thanks very much for taking the time to respond to this post!

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  3. Pingback: Mentoring for Research Staff « Research Staff Blog

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