Individual Development Plans

You have spent your entire career obtaining the degrees, skills, and experiences necessary to reach this point. So now what? How do you leverage that training into a career that is fulfilling - one that peaks your interest, challenges you, and meets your core values? An individual development plan, or IDP, can help you answer this question.

An IDP is a tool, created by you, to map and meet your career goals. In essence, it is a list of goals and objectives set to a specific timeline. The goals include those for your research project, for skills development, and for career planning. When discussed with and developed further between you and your mentor, an IDP will help you set and work toward realistic goals, keeping you on your desired career path, or helping you forge a new one.

Why use an IDP?

Postdocs who develop a defined written career plan report greater career satisfaction, improved productivity and effectiveness, and better interactions with their mentors. Other reasons to write an IDP include: 

  • An IDP facilitates discussion between mentor and mentee, clarifying expectations
  • An IDP is not generic, as it focuses on personalized needs and goals
  • An IDP clarifies short- and long-term goals and the activities required to meet them
  • An IDP is required, or strongly encouraged, by funding agencies like the NIH - read more about development plans on the NIH site

The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs recommends using myIDP from Science Careers, as it contains an abundance of resources to help you develop and set goals, allows you to create reminders to keep your goals on track, and provides ways to share your goals with your mentor. Additionally, through included self-assessment exercises, myIDP generates a suggestive list of career options, with associated resources, to help you explore your careers options.

myIDP from Science Careers

This online tool is a great way to set your goals and define your career path.

Check out this video about successful IDPs!