Career Series: Late Career

Experienced Research Professionals Should Consider Mentoring the Next Generation

Approximately 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day between now and 2030, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. The field of clinical research is no exception to this enormous wave of research leaders reaching retirement age and exiting the profession.

As senior research professionals turn toward their retirement, now may be a good time to consider how they may leave a legacy. Mentoring can enrich the work lives of both mentor and mentee through sharing of knowledge, skills, insights and wisdom. The profession also benefits by developing emerging leaders to take on new responsibilities. Mastering how to navigate through the regulatory landscape that governs research is difficult, and having the chance to learn from those that have mastered this field will make a huge difference to the future of the industry.

Developing a dedicated pipeline of leaders

According to Price Waterhouse Coopers, millennials will make up over half of the workforce by 2020. There is an enormous opportunity to demonstrate the importance of the research mission and how its benefits to society can lead to a career of meaningful work. These two areas are important to the next generation of workers, according to several surveys.

But how does one become a mentor? Beyond being a teacher or advisor, a strong mentor also understands the interpersonal part of the relationship based on an understanding of the mentee, and a willingness to invest emotionally in a mentee’s growth and development.

Demonstrate curiosity

Rather than focusing on teaching or dispensing advice, it’s useful for the mentor to listen, ask questions and demonstrate a curiosity about what motivates the mentee. Sometimes it can be more meaningful and a stronger learning experience if the mentee is guided to his or her own answers to questions.

Lead by example

Being a role model — by demonstrating the skills and emotional intelligence necessary to be a successful research professional — can teach important lessons in navigating an institution or the profession.

Identify goals

A strong mentor will nudge a mentee into reaching for goals beyond the status quo. Having a clear understanding for a mentees strengths and capabilities can help a mentor understand the person’s potential.

Succession planning

Being a mentor can be part of developing a formal succession plan in order to fill the open leadership positions with passionate and talented workers. Such planning should include providing ample training opportunities.

With a few guidelines, a mentor and mentee can both benefit from a rich relationship.