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Individual Development Plan FAQs

Is an IDP mandatory?

The Graduate School and the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs strongly encourage all postdoctoral trainees to use an IDP. Postdoctoral trainees receiving funding from the NIH or NSF should have an IDP and discuss it with their mentors.

When should I complete my first IDP?

Now! You should create an IDP in the early stages of your postdoctoral training. Assess your skills, values, and interests, write down some career goals, and consider how you might work toward achieving those goals in the next one to three years. Make an appointment with your mentor(s) to discuss your ideas and receive their feedback.

How often should I review and update my IDP?

It is a good idea to revisit and revise your IDP every six to twelve months. This time frame is short enough to keep you focused on short-term goals while also taking the necessary steps to reach more long-term goals as well.

Is an IDP a long-term plan for my entire career, or a short-term plan for only a few years?

The IDP serves primarily as a short-term plan. However, you can use it to measure progress towards your bigger, longer-range career goals.

How can I discover professional development opportunities to include in my IDP?

The other resources found in the Professional Development section of this website can help you learn about opportunities available to you at Northwestern. You can also ask friends, colleagues, professional organizations, and reach out to the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs with any specific questions about programming and opportunities.

How can my faculty mentor(s) help with my IDP?

Your faculty mentors are one of the most important links in your development process. They can play the role of coach, advocate, or objective observer and help you explore options ordirections you might not otherwise have considered to achieve your professional goals. Mentors can also be an excellent source of feedback about current skill competencies and opportunities to develop them further. More information on how you can use an IDP with your mentors can be found on the Working with a Mentor page.

Should I develop a new IDP if I switch advisors, or as I transition to a more advanced stage in my postdoctoral training?

Not necessarily. Share your current IDP with your new advisor and discuss your goals and progress. Together, decide which, if any, items need to change.