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Your Individual Development Plan (IDP)

While you are responsible for your career trajectory and success, faculty should provide mentoring, guidance, and resources, in both scientific and career development, to support your goals. Sponsors should initiate those conversations and discuss research direction, progress, and career goals. However, sponsors may not be accustomed to such discussions or may get caught up in other priorities. You should request those conversations, as it is your future that is impacted negatively by an absence of mentoring, and positively by proactive feedback and advice.

Remember that a postdoctoral appointment is a training period. To get the best training, you must be dedicated to the scientific goals of your project and that you exhibit and continue to develop independent thinking, identification of key questions, and strategies to answer these questions.

The Individual Development Plan (IDP) is a way to explore and define training goals, professional development needs, and career objectives with your sponsor. It guides you to reflect on where you are and where you would like to be, and defines specific actions for goal achievement. Your IDP and annual planning meeting with your sponsor are intended to help you:

  • Consider your training and professional development from a broad perspective.
  • Pause and reflect on goals that can get lost amidst daily research activities.
  • Set clear short-, mid- and long-term training and development goals.
  • Have open and direct dialogue with your sponsor.
  • Establish clear expectations/steps.
  • Facilitate self-reflection and fruitful discussions.
  • Create a written action plan for your individual goals and career of choice.
  • Identify and use resources to help you achieve your goals.

All postdoctoral scholars must complete and discuss an IDP with their faculty sponsor annually. Stanford is committed to postdoc training. The IDP provides an important component of this training by:

  • Encouraging self-reflection and consideration of progress, goals and needs;
  • Ensuring discussion of the postdoc's goals, progress, and action plan with the faculty mentor at least once per year; and
  • Helping to enact short-term goals that work toward long-term goals.

Four Key Steps for IDPs

1. Prepare your IDP and meet with your sponsor within three months of joining Stanford.

2. Discuss your IDP with your sponsor.

  • Sharing the IDP form before meeting gives your sponsor time to consider your plan more deeply.

  • Lead the conversation, guided by the IDP.

  • Fill out the "Action Plan" section with your sponsor during the meeting.

3. Verify the date of the IDP meeting in the IDP system.

  • Postdocs enter the meeting date.

  • Sponsors receive an email asking them to confirm the meeting. This confirmation is required to complete the documentation of the IDP meeting.

  • The system records only the date the meeting occurred; your IDP and sponsor discussions remain private. IDP forms are not collected.

4. Refer to your plan regularly throughout the year; revise your plan annually.

Forms and Documentation

IDP forms stimulate discussion and define a specific training plan. Postdocs can download, complete, and save the form, send it to their faculty sponsors, and use it to guide annual IDP meetings. Ideally postdocs will share the completed form with faculty mentors before or during the IDP meeting. These forms have been developed with input from faculty and postdocs, and include sections on self-assessment, career exploration, and goal setting.

Recommended Forms

Alternative Annual Meeting Form

We recommend the faculty sponsor and postdoc use the Annual IDP Form (see above) for the annual meeting. However, if the faculty sponsor and postdoc prefer to use the Alternative Annual Meeting Form (see below), this is acceptable. This form was developed by a Stanford School of Medicine faculty member.

Note: Alternatives to these three forms must be pre-approved by OPA.

Verify the IDP Meeting: Postdocs and Sponsors

Postdocs and sponsors must verify their meetings. This provides an auditable record of compliance with University policy that all postdocs and sponsors have at least one meeting/year that focuses on research and professional development. This procedure also complies with NIH policy and the National Academies' recommendations, noted above.

  • Postdocs record the meeting dates via the IDP Management System.
  • Faculty sponsors confirm the meeting dates in the same system.
  • Only the date of the meeting is recorded; your IDP and discussions with your sponsor remain private.

Responsibilities of Sponsors

A sponsor inviting a Postdoctoral Scholar to Stanford works with that individual to develop a plan of research and goals for the period of training. The faculty member approves this plan, and during the term of the appointment ensures adequate office/laboratory space. In addition, faculty are expected to:

  • Encourage postdocs to seek secondary mentors who could provide them with opportunities in new areas of research, foster collaboration, and offer them guidance and support to assist with their career goals
  • Seek the participation of these secondary mentors or multiple other faculty members in the annual progress reviews with their postdocs
  • Encourage postdocs to participate in career development activities (workshops, courses, pre-conference events), recognizing that the short postdoc training period means seeking such information early in the training period.
  • Encourage postdocs to engage in social networking opportunities, such as attendance of talks and seminars in the department or University-wide.

Responsibilities of Postdoctoral Scholars

Postdoctoral Scholars are expected to:

  • Carry out the study or research outlined in discussions with the faculty sponsor
  • Communicate regularly with the faculty sponsor
  • Notify the faculty sponsor of any change in plans
  • Scholar is not expected to handle administrative duties or to be on a dissertation reading committee for any graduate student.