An individual development plan (IDP) or professional development plan (PDP) is an important tool for any science professional. This document is normally part of the annual performance evaluation for faculty and research staff at many institutions; however, it is often not a requirement for graduate students, postgraduates and junior level staff members but should be encouraged for scientists at any level. The IDP provides a structured outline of career objectives and action steps to achieve these objectives. Of course, the IDP is not static and is an ever-evolving document as you progress in your career development.
Note: Science Careers in collaboration with a team including the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) and University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) have developed a free web-based IDP tool (myIDP), which will be released early in September 2012. I am very excited about this new tool to help facilitate the IDP process and will revisit this topic after the tool is available! In the mean time, consider taking a few hours this week to assess your current career goals and professional development activities in preparation for developing an IDP:
1. Write a detailed work and volunteer history to allow a complete assessment of all your qualifications and experiences and keep it on hand for further exercises such as drafting the IDP, interview preparations and writing a resume/CV.
2. Write concise one – two sentence statements on your current near term (1-3 years), mid term (3-5 years) and long term (5-10 years) career objectives. This may change with time as you explore career opportunities but will allow a starting point for determining appropriate professional development activities.
3. Print out a few job postings for your “ideal job”, focus on the qualifications section and identify areas in which you need to enhance your skill sets to fulfill these requirements.
4. List any ongoing “professional development activities” (i.e. conferences to be attended, writing a grant or reading this blog :)) in one column. In a second “goals” column, identify how these activities will help you to achieve your near, mid or long term career goals. If any of these activities are clearly not in line with your objectives then consider dropping it off the list and refocusing your energy on more suitable activities.
5. Review example IDP templates to become familiar with the format and various components. Visit the following web sites for more detailed information on the concept of an IDP and sample templates: