Skip to content

The Individual Development Plan (IDP)

Return to Postdoc Services RESOURCES

Establishing good communication between postdocs and mentors is critical for a successful relationship. The Individual Development Plan (IDP) serves as a communication tool between postdoc and mentor, and provides a planning process that identifies both professional development needs and career objectives. The IDP opens communication, identifies expectations, establishes objective criteria for success, recognizes the importance of training and service, and is flexible to allow new opportunities to be pursued when they appear. The IDP should include defined time and resources devoted to research and career development activities independent of the mentor's research.

The NIH Biomedical Research Workforce Report and the NIGMS Strategic Plan highlight the value of career planning for science PhDs. In addition, in 2013 the NIH called for institutions to require IDPs for all NIH trainees.

Suggested IDP Templates:

1.  Duke Postdoctoral Associates and Scholars should use the Evaluation Form for Duke Postdoctoral Appointees to map out their career goals and accomplishments. The evaluation is modeled on the Individual Development Plan (IDP). Per the Duke Postdoctoral Policy, written evaluations must be completed on a yearly basis. According to the 2005 Sigma Xi National Postdoctoral Survey, postdocs who establish a written plan with their advisor early in the postdoc period are likelier to report greater productivity, greater satisfaction, and better relationships with their advisor. Providing written feedback is an important part of the PI’s mentoring duties, just as supervisory evaluations are important for regular staff. Evaluations also provide a safeguard in the event of a grievance, as documentation of performance.

2.  myIDP is an interactive tool that helps postdocs and graduate students in the sciences develop a step-by-step plan for reaching their career goals. There is no charge to use the site, and postdocs can return as often as they like to access the tool. They can also print out portions of their IDP for further one-on-one or group discussions with their mentor or fellow postdocs. myIDP provides:

  • Exercises to help you examine your skills, interests, and values.
  • A list of 20 scientific career paths with a prediction of which ones best fit your skills and interests.
  • A tool for setting strategic goals for the coming year, with optional reminders to keep you on track.
  • Articles and resources to guide you through the process.
  • Users may print out or send a certificate to any email address 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.

Philip Clifford, Associate Dean for Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago and one of the authors of myIDP, spoke to Duke postdocs and grad students about IDPs. His talk, "Planning for a Successful Career in Science", can be found on the Duke Postdoc Services YouTube Channel.

3.  ImaginePhD is a free, online career exploration and planning tool for postdocs and graduate students in the humanities and social sciences. ImaginePhD users are able to:

  • Assess their career-related skills, interests, and values.
  • Explore careers paths appropriate to their disciplines.
  • Map out steps for career and professional development.

Developed by experts from over 50 universities, ImaginePhD offers a unique platform that teaches PhDs about popular job sectors, search strategies, and how to transfer skills across settings.

4.  Dara Wilson Grant, MS, NCC, Associate Director of the UNC Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, conducts bi-annual IDP workshops for Duke postdocs to help trainees establish expectations and effectively communicate research and career goals with their mentors/PIs.

5. Guide to Using a IDP from the National Postdoctoral Association. Duke Postdoctoral Services is an institutional member of the National Postdoctoral Association, established to improve the postdoctoral experience by supporting research training and professional growth. Benefits include a career center, international postdocs' guide, and more. Register for your free Duke affiliate membership using your Duke email address.

6. Duke Nicholas School of the Environment Postdoctoral IDPs for Year 1, Year 2 and Beyond

7.  An excellent article on Managing Up in Academe by Kristy J Sherrer in Inside Higher Ed.


Office of Postdoctoral Services - Policies