Individual Development Plans
An Individual Development Plan (IDP) is a tool to help you articulate your professional development needs and career goals. With an IDP, you can:
- Make a working list of professional skills already acquired
- Identify skills that need to be developed or enhanced
- Define career objectives
- Craft short- and long-term plans to reach your objectives within a reasonable timeline
- Initiate and sustain productive conversations with mentors about your professional development
An IDP is not intended to serve as a rigid compact between you and your mentor. Rather, it can be used to facilitate communication as you work to develop mutual expectations of one another. Ideally, you will meet with your mentor once or twice a year to revisit your IDP in order to identify specific ways you can develop your professional skills and move towards your career objectives.
Why should you draft an IDP?
The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs strongly encourages all postdoctoral trainees to use an IDP. Additionally, some funding agencies require postdoctoral fellows to complete an IDP as a condition of their funding.
Beginning your postdoc with an IDP will allow you to take advantage of professional development opportunities at Northwestern that will help you reach your individual goals. Data collected as part of the 2005 Sigma Xi survey of postdoctoral scholars in the United States underscores the value of deliberate career planning during your postdoctoral training. According to the survey, postdocs who began their appointment with a written IDP developed in collaboration with their advisers 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 advisers and their appointments.
Getting started on your IDP
Many departments and programs at Northwestern have created IDP templates that can be used by postdoctoral trainees. A few are highlighted below:
CIRTL at Northwestern also provides postdocs with access to a two-part online workshop to help them develop an IDP and share it with their mentors. View a list of upcoming CIRTL workshops.
If you are looking to undertake an in-depth exploration and assessment of your skills and career aspirations, there are two additional resources that can help you:
- myIDP for scholars in the sciences
- ImaginePhD for scholars in the humanities and social sciences
Both of these tools guide users through a four-step process that helps them evaluate their skills and interests, explore career opportunities in their fields, create self-defined goals, and map out an actionable plan to achieve career and professional development success.