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IDP FAQs for Postdocs

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.

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 appointing faculty sponsor. You are further encouraged to discuss your research and professional plans with your faculty sponsor and others on a regular basis. Regular reflection and feedback are important components of training and development.

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.

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 faculty sponsor 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.

Your faculty sponsor 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 prefer to keep it private.

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 sponsor if you can hold your meeting by phone or video conference. Consult with the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs for any additional assistance or advice.

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

Using your IDP as a guide, you will discuss your self-assessment, goals and plans. Your faculty sponsor 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 BioSci Careers and Stanford BEAM Career Education can assist you.

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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 sponsor 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 sponsor 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 sponsor is not providing the support that you need, which may lead you to seek other opportunities.

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.

The IDP benefits you and your faculty sponsor. Most faculty sponsors 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 sponsor 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 sponsor 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.

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 sponsor 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 sponsor will see your IDP.

Your IDP form and discussions remain private between you and your faculty sponsor. 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 yoursponsor's confirmation of the date. The content of your IDP and your discussions are not documented; they remain private between you and your faculty sponsor.