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Individual Development Plan and Mentoring

Effective mentoring by faculty is critical to the success of postdocs and to the career development of the faculty. Mentoring entails an institutional commitment by Stanford towards a meaningful postdoctoral training experience, towards a high quality of that training that entails mentoring opportunities and sufficient breadth of experiences to allow for preparation and exposure to a variety of career choices. 


Regular meetings are required activities that postdocs and faculty are encouraged to do. This process ensures that a dialogue in areas other than regular scientific discussions between the postdoc and his or her faculty mentor takes place, and serves as an opportunity to discuss deficiencies in performance or adjustments in future plans or expectations. 

Towards that end, Stanford University has adopted a new Individual Development Plan (IDP) policy and encourages every postdoctoral faculty advisor to have three meetings with their postdocs:  

  • Initial Meeting:  A formal discussion within the first four weeks of the postdoc appointment.  Meeting Goal: Career-orientation, objectives, research project definition, and appraisal of needed skills. Initial Meeting Form
  • Annual Progress Meeting:  A formal discussion at the anniversary of your appointment or, if easier, closely following the New Year. You should have analogous and complementary meetings with secondary mentors or other faculty mentors. In some instances it may be useful for them to attend in one larger meeting.  In addition, some departments have yearly committee meetings for postdocs. While not yet standard, this appears to be a great way to get broad and diverse feedback on progress and objective, both short and long term. Meeting Goal: Progress is evaluated and goals are set for the following year. Annual Meeting Form
  • Exit Interview: A formal discussion at the end of your appointment.  Meeting Goal: Address future research trajectories; differentiation strategies if you are pursuing the same lines of research as the PI; and possible opportunities or plans for collaboration or future mentoring. 

Expectations for Stanford faculty in a mentoring relationship with postdoctoral scholars:

  • 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.

Selected Additional Resources: 

  • For those in the medical fields, the American Association of Medical Colleges’ Compact Between Postdoctoral Appointees and Their Mentors highlights the commitments by both the postdoctoral appointees and their mentors when entering into a mentoring relationship.
  • Collaboration & Team Science: A Field Guide. By Bennett, Gadlin, & Levine-Finley. NIH. 2010.
  • Coaching and Mentoring: How to Develop Top Talent and Achieve Stronger Performance. Harvard Business Essentials series.  HBS Press. Boston, MA. 2004.
  • At the Helm: A Laboratory Navigator. By Kathy Barker.  Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. 2002.
  • Adviser, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On Being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering. National Academy of Science/National Academy of Engineering/Institute of Medicine. National Academy Press. 1997.
  • Managing Scientists: Leadership Strategies in Scientific Research. By Alice Sapienza. Wiley-Liss. 2004.
  • Getting the Most out of Your Mentoring Relationships: A Handbook for Women in STEM.  By Donna J. Dean. Springer.