Advancing Your Career as a Regulatory Professional

In the regulatory world, time is a precious commodity. Though we are frequently tasked with high volumes of work,  taking time to work on professional growth and advancement is critical. The “Advancing Yourself as a Regulatory Professional” session at the 2018 Advancing Ethical Research Conference (AER18) provided practical tips on how to advance professionally.

One key step in professional development is goal setting. Identify what interests you most with the work you do. Ask yourself: what would you like to learn more about? Where do you see yourself in 3 or 5 years?

Next, determine what skills you would need to achieve that goal. If you’re uncertain, try looking at job descriptions or talking to others in roles you are interested in, either at your own institution or at other institutions.

There are many tools to help you learn new skills and stay up to date on regulatory trends, including online training tools like PRIM&R’s Ethical Research Oversight Course (EROC), CITI courses, newsletters and listservs (OHRP, FDA, NIH, IRB Forum). To advance your career, you can obtain certifications such as the Certified IRB Professional (CIP) or advanced degrees in Regulatory Affairs and Ethics. Many of these degree programs are tailored to working professionals with night, weekend, and flexible schedule options. If you’re not sure what your next step will be and you don’t want to commit to a longer-term program, you can try taking courses of interest through websites like Coursera.

Another key insight from the session was to build professional networks by connecting with others at regional or national conferences (ACRP, SOCRA, or one of PRIM&R’s in-person events) or requesting to shadow others such as a coordinator or grants administrator for a day. Something I’ve found helpful is to sit in on IRB meetings from other institutions and to allow guests from those institutions to sit in on my IRB meetings. It offers a new perspective and increases collaboration and communication between sites.

In addition to networking, mentoring is a great way to gain insight and advice on career options. Reach out to someone who has a skill set you admire and request a short meeting to learn more;  it’s a great first step towards establishing a mentoring relationship. If you’re not sure who to ask, PRIM&R has an excellent mentoring program for members. I encourage everyone to sign up to be both a mentor and a mentee! No matter where you are in your career, you can always learn from someone else as well as provide advice from your own experience. Making these kinds of professional connections will help you to establish depth and perspective that will enhance your performance. Not all mentors have to be at a higher level in  an organization. Peer-to-peer mentoring, mentoring across departments, or even work-life mentoring (e.g. connecting with someone who attended school while working) could be beneficial for providing support and ideas on how to successfully accomplish your goals.

Some more key takeaways:

  • Take initiative to create opportunities within your office. Identify a need and suggest solutions. Come to your performance review prepared to set goals and let your supervisor know what resources you need.
  • Say “Yes” to things outside your comfort zone—submit a poster, apply to be a member of the Blog Squad, ask your boss to teach you a task they do that you’re interested in learning, or olunteer to help or be on task committees.
  • Self-advocacy is important. Develop an “elevator pitch” and use it! An elevator pitch is a two-minute summary of what you do and why you’re worth remembering. Instead of checking your phone on the elevator or in the hallway, strike up a conversation and you never know who you may connect with. Putting yourself out there helps you to put yourself in the right place at the right time if an opportunity were to arise.
  • Ask for feedback. Let others around you—peers, managers, direct reports—know that you’re looking to identify areas you can improve on. Frequently we are our own biggest road block to advancing.

What has helped you to be successful in your career? What tips do you have for others? Do you, or have you, had an interesting job related to your regulatory professional background? Continue the conversation in the comments below!

Heather Cathrall, MBE, CIP, is the Assistant Director of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Institutional Review Board. She has a Master’s degree in Bioethics from the University of Pennsylvania and Bachelor’s degrees in Cognitive Science and Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She has worked for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia IRB for over 13 years and was a research coordinator prior to her IRB work.

Members of PRIM&R’s Blog Squad and other guest contributors are valued members of our community willing to share their insights. The views expressed in their posts do not necessarily reflect those of PRIM&R or its employees.