Stanford University
Postdoctoral Scholars

FAQs and Resources for Postdocs


What is an IDP?

The Individual Development Plan (IDP) is an opportunity for you to explore and define your training goals, your professional development needs, and your career objectives. Further it is an opportunity to do this with your faculty mentor. It guides you to reflect on where you are now and where you would like to be, and defines specific actions toward achieving your goals.

Why do I need/want an IDP?

An annual IDP is one component of broad professional development and mentoring. Specifically, it helps postdocs:

  • Identify progress in training and document accomplishments to date;
  • Set goals for the upcoming year, including discussing how to spend time to maximize progress toward career, professional development and project goals;
  • Identify areas for improvement; and
  • Define specific skills and experience needed to prepare for long-term career goals and complete research training, and ways to develop these skills.

Am I required to complete an IDP? How often?

Yes. All postdocs are required to complete the IDP and verify that they meet at least once annually for a comprehensive discussion of training and development goals with their mentor. You are further encouraged to discuss your research and professional plans with your faculty mentor and others on a regular basis. Regular reflection and feedback are important components of training and development.

When is it due?

Postdocs are expected to have their initial IDP meeting within three months of their appointment start date, and annually thereafter. The initial meeting is important to set clear expectations about the scope of work, available resources, and the individual culture of each working group. The subsequent meeting provides opportunity for reflection and feedback.

Note for current postdocs: if you met between the dates of January 1, 2015 through March 1, 2015, please login and report that meeting. Otherwise please plan your meeting now.

What are the consequences of not completing the IDP requirements by the deadline?

In light of the intrinsic benefits of the IDP, the university-wide requirement, and funding requirements, we expect this to be a rare occurrence, and you and your mentor will be reminded of its value.

Both postdocs and faculty face adverse consequences in that failure to complete the IDP by the designated deadlines will jeopardize Stanford's competitiveness for National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal funding. A record of IDP meetings is required to support any postdoc term-limit extension requests.

Do I have to share my completed IDP form with my faculty mentor?

Your faculty mentor can best prepare for your discussion by reviewing your IDP ahead of time. Ideally, you would share the initial draft a week before and during your meeting. However, the IDP is a personal document, and you are not required to share it if you would prefer to keep it private.

My faculty mentor is too busy/traveling. What should I do?

You both share the responsibility to complete the IDP. Schedule your meeting in advance. If away for an extended period of time, ask your faculty mentor if you can hold your meeting by phone or video conference. Consult with the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs for any additional assistance or advice.

Can I meet with someone other than my faculty mentor?

Your IDP must be discussed with your faculty mentor. Meetings with other mentors are valuable and encouraged.

How will the planning meeting proceed?

Using your IDP as a guide, you will discuss your self-assessment, goals and plans. Your faculty mentor will share his/her perspective, and the two of you will work collaboratively to identify specific actions and resources to help you toward your goals. If you need guidance and advice about how to make the most out of your mentoring relationships and/or how to have productive discussions, the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, the Stanford School of Medicine Career Center and Stanford Career Development Center can assist you.

What resources are available to help me prepare for my meeting?

Career counselors at the Stanford School of Medicine Career Center and Stanford Career Development Center are available to help you clarify your plans and prepare for the meeting. By talking through your concerns and preparing for different anticipated scenarios, you will be better prepared with the skills and resources to navigate the meeting when communicating with your mentor. Other resources are available under the Educational Programs section of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs website.

I'm concerned that discussing my career options may affect whether I am fairly considered for certain projects and opportunities.

The IDP is intended to enable candid and constructive conversations, so that you may frankly express which opportunities align with your interests and goals, and your faculty mentor can assign projects based on your stated interests (among other factors) rather than an assumption about your interests. Once aware of your goals, your faculty mentor may be able to better guide you toward opportunities that are aligned with your career of choice. It may also help to reiterate your commitment to research, your project, and completing your postdoc.

In extreme cases, you may decide that your mentor is not providing the support that you need, which may lead you to seek other opportunities.

Won't it be awkward to tell the person supervising/mentoring me that I don't want to follow his/her path?

Most faculty are well aware that there are fewer jobs in academia and are supportive of other career paths. Faculty may in fact be helpful and enthusiastic due to their connections and/or direct you to lab alumni who have successful careers in industry and other areas.

What if my faculty mentor doesn't take my IDP and planning meeting seriously and/or they react negatively to it?

The IDP benefits you and your mentor. Most faculty mentors take their responsibility for training their postdocs seriously. It will be important for both of you to approach the meeting with an open mind and have an idea of what taking the meeting "seriously" means to you.

If you believe your training goals were not taken seriously, it may be helpful to ask your faculty mentor for specific feedback. Counselors at the Career Centers can help prepare you for this conversation as well. You may also find it beneficial to develop relationships with multiple mentors who can support you with different facets of your training needs. Finally, if your mentor does not take these discussions seriously, you may want to reflect on his/her commitment to you and your training and development. Consult with the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs for additional assistance or advice.

How/where do I submit my IDP?

You don't. Your IDP is not collected or seen by anyone. You download the appropriate form and fill it out on your local computer. Following best practices, you would share your completed IDP form (either digitally or printed) with your faculty mentor before or during your planning meeting (although sharing your IDP is not required). You will then use your IDP as a guide during the meeting. Only you and your faculty mentor will see your IDP.

Who will see my IDP? What about the meeting verification form?

Your IDP form and discussions remain private between you and your faculty mentor. You are encouraged to discuss your plans with secondary mentors or mentors, as you see fit. The meeting verification form records only the date the meeting occurred.

The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs administers the IDP meeting verification system, including confirmation and follow-up emails and necessary reporting. The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs sees only your identifying information, your mentor's name and email, the date you held your meeting, and your mentor's confirmation of the date. The content of your IDP and your discussions are not documented; they remain private between you and your faculty mentor.

The online verification system failed. What should I do?

Try to re-submit the record of your IDP meeting. If that fails, submit a HelpSU ticket by selecting "Central Office Issues" and "Postdoctoral Affairs."


Individual Development Plan Guides

Communicating with Your mentor

Finding Mentors

Scientific Training

Other Resources at Stanford


Questions, comments or feedback? Please submit a HelpSU ticket by selecting "Central Office Issues" and "Postdoctoral Affairs", or email postdocidp[at]stanford[dot]edu.


Stanford Medicine Resources:

Footer Links: