Individual Development Plan (IDP)

Your Individual Development Plan (IDP)

What is an IDP and how should it be used?

An IDP is a private, dynamic, self-evaluation and career exploration tool available to postdocs, or anyone looking to be proactive about their career development. An IDP can help you set goals, develop skills, and plan for your career transition.

As the name suggests, you write and guide the plan - but that doesn’t mean you’re in it alone. Your IDP can serve as a framework for discussions between you and your faculty mentor, and even your peers.

Generally, you’ll get the most out of your IDP if you use it as a research agenda and career development tool. We recommend that you update your IDP annually to reflect your accomplishments and changes in career and research objectives.

What are the advantages of completing an IDP?

An IDP can help you set goals for your career, identify steps towards achieving those goals, and track your progress. For example, an IDP might help you determine when to start applying for fellowships, or increase your awareness of the skills that you’ve built. The goal is for you to feel empowered in the development of your career.

How do I start my IDP?

To get started on your IDP, use one of the handy tools below depending on your research subject and background.

Life Sciences and STEM:
To get started on your IDP, check out myIDP, an interactive tool from ScienceCareers/AAAS. This IDP tool was developed by a team of scientists and career advisors for trainees in biomedical/STEM sciences.

The tool involves a four-phase process: Self-assessment (skills, interests and values), Career Exploration, Goal Setting, and Implementation. Get started today.

QB3-Berkeley has also created an IDP template tailored for postdocs.

Humanities and Social Sciences:
ImaginePhD is the first Individual Development Plan created to meet the needs of graduate students and PhDs in the Humanities and Social Sciences. This free, online career exploration and planning tool is designed to provide resources that bridge the knowledge gap between doctoral education and the realm of career possibilities.

The tool can help you assess your career-related skills, interests, and values; explore careers paths appropriate to your discipline; create self-defined goals; and map out next steps for your career and professional development success.

Create your own IDP:
If you or your department prefer to create your own IDP tools, we recommend including sections on career objectives, skills assessment and goal setting for the next year.

Some resources that can help you create you own IDP include:Individual Development Plan for Postdoctoral Fellows Postdoc Research and Career Progress: Annual Review - Sample

How is this any different from an annual assessment?

IDPs are not a formal assessment tool - it’s just a way to help you improve and hold yourself accountable. However, it definitely will help you prepare for annual evaluations!

The annual evaluation is written by the mentor, while the IDP is written by the trainee (potentially with input from the mentor). The annual evaluation is an official assessment tool for the university to track the trainee's accomplishments. In contrast, the IDP is a personal and private career exploration and goal setting tool to help the trainees plan out their training. Annual evaluations generally focus only on trainees’ academic accomplishments such as advancing to candidacy (for graduate students), publishing papers, and analyzing data. The IDP, however, may have a mix of both academic and non-academic goals. For example, a graduate student who wants to become a science policy consultant for the government would have an annual evaluation that still focused on his/her academic achievements, but his/her IDP might include finding a mentor who currently works for the government, or practicing conveying scientific ideas to legislators.

How can I certify the completion of my IDP?

If you are funded by NIH, your faculty mentor is required to report on IDP use for you. This may mean that your faculty mentor will ask you for proof of IDP completion. Don’t worry - your full IDP will still remain confidential.

myIDP has a feature that allows users to print out or email a certificate documenting their progress in creating an IDP. The certificate will have a checklist that reports which sections of myIDP have been completed and whether there has been a discussion with the mentor without showing any of the content.

Is there someone I can talk to about all this?

Yes! Please feel free to contact the Career Center PhD advisors Debra Behrens and Andrew Green for tips on how to incorporate an IDP into your training.