Career Navigators: Providing structure and support for the very first RD career transition

To sustain the growth in Research Development (RD), it is critical that we build pipelines and provide support to usher in the next generation of professionals. With that goal in mind, NORDP created strategic alliances with the National Postdoctoral Association, and that relationship heralded new early career development programs in the organization. One such leap forward was the creation of a trainee membership category by the Member Services Committee in 2019, which allowed those new to RD to avail a NORDP membership at a reduced cost but reap the same benefits of being part of this community. 

To provide additional support to these trainee members, the Mentoring Committee piloted a program called the Career Navigator, where trainee members were each paired with a more experienced NORDP member, the Career Navigator, who had a similar background as the trainee member and a career path the trainee member desired. The navigator would be a mentor who helped the trainee member determine whether RD is the right fit and if so, help them through the challenges of landing their first RD position. Seven trainee members were paired, and provided with mentoring resources and support. 

We caught up with the most recent pair of Career Navigator and trainee member: Dr. Kelsey Hassevoort, a Research Development Manager for the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Dr. Kellie Gross who recently accepted her first RD position at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and talked to them about their experiences with the program. 

Kelsey and Kellie met monthly and covered topics like creating job application materials, interview preparation, what a RD job could look like and networking. One of Kelsey’s favorite aspects of participating in the Career Navigator program was realizing how much in common she had with Kellie beyond their training as neuroscience researchers. The pair found common ground in their Midwestern roots, liberal arts education, and close family ties. Kellie similarly felt like she could relate to Kelsey from the beginning. This not only helped the pair form a strong bond, but also helped Kelsey tailor her advice. Kellie found the program “extremely helpful for my transition from postdoc to a full-time RD role.” The Career Navigator program further helped Kellie “feel welcomed into the NORDP community, and provided valuable structure and support to my career transition.” 

As with many mentoring positions, Kelsey was initially unsure about whether she would have enough useful information about job seeking in RD to be able to adequately support Kellie. But she was pleasantly surprised to discover “just how much information about searching and interviewing for RD jobs I’ve managed to absorb since starting in the field,” going on to say, “I fully credit NORDP’s professional development programming and my experience as a NORDP mentee, along with the opportunity to serve on multiple search committees at the University of Illinois, with providing so much useful information and advice about building a career and finding that first job in RD, which, in turn, I’ve been able to share with Kellie.”

Kellie felt that the Career Navigator program helped solidify her decision to pursue a career in RD. She noted, “Being able to hear in detail about someone else’s experiences working in RD, and seeing the level of support that NORDP has for its members’ mentorship and career development, further convinced me that I wanted to be a part of both this field and professional community.” 

As parting words of wisdom, Kelsey encourages pairs to approach the relationship with an open mind and be cognizant of the different skill sets each brings to the relationship. For Kelsey it was important to “be able to truly hear what Kellie wanted out of a career in research development, without projecting my own career aspirations onto our discussions.” Kellie wants trainee members to know that “it’s helpful to be specific about what you’re trying to get out of the program, whether that’s more information about RD careers, or guidance on navigating the job market or help with networking.” She adds, “I think a great aspect of this program is that you can make of it what you want, so don’t be afraid to speak up about what you need.”

The relationship Kelsey and Kellie have built has enriched them and allowed them to look at RD with a new perspective. As Kellie grows in her new role, she and Kelsey plan to keep in touch regularly and continue their mentoring relationship beyond the Career Navigator program. 

The Career Navigator program has led to four first-time RD positions, one RD postdoctoral position and one trainee member realizing a career in RD is not the right fit. The NORDP Mentoring Committee is engaged in formalizing the Career Navigators program in collaboration with the Member Services Committee.

To hear about this and other programs the NORDP Mentoring Committee has to offer, please plan to attend the NORDP Mentoring Committee Open House, a meeting dedicated to celebrating current Committee members, taking stock of committee accomplishments, and welcoming NORDP members who are willing to get involved. Mark your calendars for Thursday, January 27th at 1pm CST for the Mentoring Committee Open House. All NORDP members are invited to attend!

NORDP fosters a culture of inclusive excellence by actively promoting and supporting diversity, inclusion and equity in all its forms to expand our worldview, enrich our work, and elevate our profession.

%d bloggers like this: