An Individual Development Plan, or IDP, is a written plan for goals and actions for
the next year. Like a personal strategic plan, an IDP helps early-career researchers
set long- and short-term goals and establish an action plan for achieving these goals.
By writing down the plan and revisiting it annually, trainees are more likely to accomplish
those goals and tend to have greater success and satisfaction
. Completing an IDP can also foster communication and feedback between trainees and
mentors, as well as assist trainees in carving out time for career exploration, professional
development, and work-life balance.
The IDP was first adapted for use with postdocs by
FASEB. Use of the IDP is a practice recommended by the
National Postdoctoral Association and has recently been mandated for all trainees supported by grants from the
National Institutes of Health. The original
FASEB IDP template has been adapted in many ways over the years. The most widely-used version is
myIDP, an interactive online tool for scientists hosted by the AAAS at ScienceCareers.org. It
has now been joined by a tool for Chemists called
chemIDP.org and a tool for the Humanities and Social Sciences called
ImaginePhD.com. Many institutions, like Stony Brook, are also developing their own local resources
and procedures to support trainee IDP development on their campuses.
 IDPs are part of the structured oversight found to correlate with increased success
and satisfaction in the Sigma Xi postdoc survey. Davis, G. 2009. “Improving the Postdoctoral
Experience: An Empirical Approach.” In R. Freeman & D. Goroff (Eds.). Science and
Engineering Careers in the United States. Chicago: NBER/University of Chicago Press,
The general steps to complete an IDP are:
Conduct a self-assessment of: values, interests, skills, strengths, and areas for
Identify long- and short-term work and life goals; and
Write down a one-year plan with actions that are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measureable,
Action-oriented, Realistic, Time-bound).
At each step it can be helpful to discuss your IDP with an advisor, mentor or supervisor.
Stony Brook does not currently have an IDP policy requiring IDPs for all graduate
students and postdocs, but
strongly encourages the use of the IDP by all early-career researchers to help them maintain progress in their research and career and to foster their transition
Some supervisors and graduate programs may have their own local requirements or guidelines
Graduate students and postdocs are encouraged to talk with their advisors or supervisors
about developing an IDP.
An IDP is an individualized plan for meeting short- and long-term goals, and therefore
trainees need to take ownership over their own IDP. The usefulness of an IDP can be
enhanced through feedback from one’s mentors, so trainees and their mentors are encouraged
to use the IDP as a communication tool.
An IDP doesn't have to take long, particularly if you've already performed a self-assessment
of your interests and goals. The critical part of the IDP is that you write down your
actionable goals for the next year to guide your work. A template can help you with
this. You can also
attend a workshop which can walk you through the steps.
The only person who will see your IDP is you, unless you choose to share it with someone.
An IDP can be a useful tool for communicating about your career and professional development
with your mentors, so you are encouraged to find a way to seek feedback on your IDP.
An important benefit of the IDP is its use as a tool for communicating about your
career and professional development with your mentors. The level of detail about your
career goals you choose to share is up to you to ensure that your conversation is
There are many different formats and templates around. You should choose the format
that best suits the way you plan and organize your activities and career.
One popular one is to use the online, interactive Web tool
myIDP.sciencecareers.org. myIDP was developed for the biomedical sciences and includes some career exploration
tools embedded in its self-assessment tool.
An IDP should be comprehensive enough to be useful, but doesn’t have to include everything.
One way to limit it is to set goals and activities for just the next year and then
revisit your plan at the end of that year.
Trainees are responsible for developing their own IDP. You can support your trainees
by discussing the IDP process with them, encouraging them to complete one annually,
and offering to provide constructive feedback on their IDP.
Be aware that trainees can be reluctant to share their career plans when they may
not align with traditional expectations, and so may only choose to share part of their
IDP if at all.
You can also invite the Director for Graduate and Postdoctoral Professional Development
an IDP workshop for your trainees. Contact us for details.
No. If your trainees are supported on your NIH grant, you only need to report on the
existence of their IDP. Neither the NIH nor Stony Brook will be collecting the IDPs.
Mentors are currently responsible for tracking their students’ and postdocs’ completion
of IDPs where this information is required to be reported to NIH.