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Your Individual Development Plan (IDP)

While you as a postdoctoral scholar are responsible for your career trajectory and success, it is reasonable to expect Stanford faculty members to provide on-going mentoring, guidance, and resources, in both scientific and career development, to support you toward your goals. In principle, Mentors should initiate those conversations and discuss research direction and progress and career goals. However, often advisors may not be accustomed to such discussions and get caught up in other priorities. It is then important that you 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 postdoc is a training period. To get the best training is it critical that you be dedicated to the scientific goals of your project and also that you exhibit and continue to develop independent thinking, identification of key questions, and strategies to answer these questions in the immediate and longer term.

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 sponsor. 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. Your IDP and annual planning meeting with your faculty 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 mentor(s).
  • 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.

Stanford University has adopted a new policy requiring all postdoctoral scholars to complete and discuss an IDP with their appointing faculty sponsor on an annual basis. Stanford is fundamentally committed to postdoctoral 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 longer-term goals.

Key Steps for Postdocs

The IDP process consists of four steps for the postdoctoral scholar:

1. Prepare your IDP and schedule the meeting with your appointing faculty sponsor.

  • Within three months of joining Stanford.

2. Meet and discuss your IDP with your appointing faculty sponsor.

  • Although not required, sharing the IDP form before the meeting provides your faculty sponsor with the opportunity to consider your plan more deeply.
  • Lead the conversation, guided by the IDP.
  • Fill out the "Action Plan" section together with your faculty sponsor during the IDP meeting.

3. Verify the date of the IDP meeting using the online IDP Reporting Form.

  • Postdocs enter the meeting date on the IDP Reporting Form.
  • Faculty sponsors will receive an email from the IDP reporting system asking them to confirm the meeting. This confirmation is required to complete the documentation of the IDP meeting.
  • The meeting verification form records only the date the meeting occurred; your IDP and discussions with your faculty sponsor remain private between you and your faculty sponsor. Forms are not collected.

4. Refer to your plan on a regular basis throughout the year; revise your plan annually.

Forms and Documentation

The IDP forms were designed to stimulate helpful discussion and define a specific training plan. Postdocs can download, complete and save the fillable 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. For new postdocs, we recommend using the Initial IDP form. For all current postdocs, we recommend using the Annual IDP form. These forms have been developed with input from faculty and postdocs at Stanford, 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 an acceptable alternative. This form was developed by a Stanford School of Medicine faculty member.

Alternative Annual IDP Form

Note: Alternatives to these three forms must be approved by the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs: postdocidp[at]stanford[dot]edu.

Verify the IDP Meeting: Postdocs and Faculty Sponsors

All postdocs and faculty sponsors must verify their meetings. (See Step 3 above). This verification step provides an auditable record of compliance with University policy that all postdocs and faculty sponsors have at least one meeting per year that focuses on research and professional development. This procedure also complies with NIH policy and the National Academies' recommendations, as noted above.

  • Postdocs will initiate the meeting verification via this online IDP Reporting Form.
  • Faculty sponsor will complete the meeting verification by responding to a confirmation email, sent via the reporting system.
  • Only the date of the meeting is recorded; your IDP and discussions with your mentor remain private between you and your faculty sponsor.

Questions, comments or feedback? Please submit a HelpSU ticket.

Responsibilities of Faculty Sponsors

A faculty 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, members of the Stanford 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 with 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:

  • Follow through 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.