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Individual Development Plans


An Individual Development Plan (IDP) is a tool designed to help graduate students and postdoctoral fellows build a career and professional development roadmap that fits their skills, interests, and values. It can also serve as a resource to help initiate and sustain conversations between mentees and mentors and develop mutual expectations. It is not intended to be a rigid compact. Ideally, after completing an IDP, a mentee will be able to engage in regular periodic discussions with mentors in order to identify specific ways they can develop their professional skills and move towards their career goals.

Why should your mentee draft an IDP?

Data collected as part of the 2005 Sigma Xi survey of postdoctoral scholars in the United States underscores the benefits of deliberate career planning during postdoctoral training. According to the survey, postdocs who began their appointments with a written IDP developed in collaboration with their mentors were 23% more likely to submit papers to peer-reviewed journals, published first-authored papers at a 30% higher rate, submitted grant proposals at a 25% higher rate, and reported higher satisfaction with their mentors and their appointments.

Additionally, the NIH strongly encourages institutions to develop and use IDPs for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers supported by NIH awards, regardless of their position title. IDPs provide a structure for the identification and achievement of career goals. Since October 1, 2014, annual progress reports are required to include a description of whether the institution uses IDPs or not and how they are employed to help manage the training and career development of those individuals.

IDP resources

Many departments and programs at Northwestern have created IDP templates that can be used by postdoctoral fellows. A few are highlighted below:

Two online career planning tools can also help postdoctoral fellows complete assessments, identify career paths of interests, and pursue career goals: