Individual Development Plans (IDP) combine personal assessment, career exploration, and skill building within a framework of goal-setting and accountability. Sample models include myIDP (designed for scientists) and ImaginePhD (designed for the humanities and social sciences). Results have shown that postdocs who develop a training plan with their mentors at the start of their appointments are more likely to be successful (measured by publishing more papers and expressing greater satisfaction with their postdoctoral experience and quality of mentoring) than postdocs who do not.
The IDP is an effective mentoring tool that can help facilitate communication between the postdoc and mentor. If the mentor is informed about the postdoc's career aspirations, together they can can structure the postdoctoral training period and outline opportunities for the postdoc to develop specific skills (e.g., submitting a fellowship proposal and attending a grant writing workshop to develop grant writing skills). At they same time, the mentor can express their expectations of the postdoc (e.g., defining research objectives, setting work hours, and establishing regularly scheduled meetings, which can help avoid future miscommunications and/or conflicts between the mentor and the postdoc.
The IDP is not intended to evaluate postdoc performance; rather, it serves as a mechanism for the postdoc to reflect on and evaluate their career progress on an annual basis. The iterative process of self-assessment, developing a plan, and evaluating progress on a regular basis allows the IDP to become an evolving document.