Individual Development Plans

Being a graduate student or a postdoctoral fellow is only one step on your professional journey. It is important to set aside time periodically to think productively about your career both in terms of short and long term goals. The Individual Development Plan (IDP) is one tool that can help you in this process. The IDP was introduced by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). According to FASEB, the purpose of the IDP is “to provide a planning process that identifies both professional development needs and career objectives. Furthermore, IDPs serve as a communication tool between individuals and their mentors.”

The recent report of the NIH Biomedical Research Workforce Report has highlighted the importance of career planning for scientists and has drawn renewed attention to the use of the IDP as a useful tool. One version that has been created is called myIDP. It is an interactive web based tool that can help you explore careers as well as help to establish and achieve both short-term and long-term career goals. The IDP should serve as a dynamic document that can help graduate students and postdocs evaluate various career options as they move through your training.

How an IDP Works

The basic idea of an IDP is quite simple and involves four steps:

For graduate students and postdocs:

  1. Conduct a self-assessment
    • Identify your strengths, skills, goals, interests, and areas that need improvement
    • Think about your long-term career objectives
  2. Discuss goals and opportunities with your mentors
    • Obtain your mentor’s input on your self-assessment
    • Prioritize areas for development and discuss with your mentor how to address them
  3. Use the myIDP tool to create your IDP
    • Share it with your mentor and revise as needed
  4. Implement the plan
    • Periodically revise as needed

For mentors:

  1. Assess your trainees’ strengths and areas for development. Also, become familiar with available opportunities and the myIDP tool
  2. Discuss your trainee’s self-assessment with him/her
  3. Review your trainee’s IDP and help revise as needed
  4. Establish a regular review of the IDP and help revise as needed

Resources Related to IDPs and Core Competencies

For more on career planning, visit Career Resources.