Texas Tech University

Individual Development Plan

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Individual Development Plans (IDPs) provide a planning process that identifies both professional development needs and career objectives. Furthermore, IDPs serve as a communication tool between individuals and their mentors. While IDPs have been incorporated into performance review processes in many organizations, they have been used much less frequently in the mentoring of postdoctoral fellows. An IDP can be considered one component of a broader mentoring program that needs to be instituted by all types of research institutions.


Help individuals identify:

  • Long-term career options they wish to pursue and the necessary tools to meet these; and
  • Short-term needs for improving current performance.

Core Competencies for an IDP

Texas Tech University adopted set of core competencies that we would like for the postdoctoral scholars to advance during their stay.

  • Discipline-Specific Conceptual Knowledge
  • Professional/Research Skill Development
  • Communication Skills
  • Professionalism
  • Leadership & Management Skills
  • Responsible Conduct of Research

Visit our core competencies page for more detailed description of core competencies and the National Postdoc Association website for a complete Postdoctoral Core Competency Toolkit


Postdoctoral fellows will have a process that assists in developing long-term goals. Identifying short-term goals will give them a clearer sense of expectations and help identify milestones along the way to achieving specific objectives. The IDP also provides a tool for communication between the postdoc and a faculty mentor.

Outline of IDP Process

The development, implementation and revision of the IDP requires a series of steps to be conducted by the postdoctoral fellow and their mentor. These steps are an interactive effort, and so both the postdoctoral fellow and the mentor must participate fully in the process.

Basic Steps:

  1. Become familiar with available opportunities
  2. Discuss opportunities with postdoc or a graduate student
  3. Review IDP and help revise
  4. Establish regular review of progress and help revise the IDP as needed

Execution of the IDP Process


  1. Become familiar with available opportunities. By virtue of your experience you should already have knowledge of some career opportunities, but you may want to familiarize yourself with other career opportunities and trends in job opportunities (refer to sources such as National Research Council reports and Science career reviews; see also Resources: Career Opportunities at the end of this document).
  2. Discuss opportunities with postdoc. This needs to be a private, scheduled meeting distinct from regular research-specific meetings. There should be adequate time set aside for an open and honest discussion.
  3. Review IDP and help revise. Provide honest feedback - both positive and negative - to help postdoctoral fellows set realistic goals. Agree on a development plan that will allow postdoctoral fellows to be productive in the laboratory and adequately prepare them for their chosen career.
  4. Establish regular review of progress. The mentor should meet at regular intervals with the postdoctoral fellow to assess progress, expectations and changing goals. On at least an annual basis, the mentor should conduct a performance review designed to analyze what has been accomplished and what needs to be done. A written review is most helpful in objectively documenting accomplishments. (An example is provided as an attachment – this can be modified to fit the needs of the postdoc and mentor).

This page has been developed by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Original document is available at http://www.faseb.org/portals/2/pdfs/opa/idp.pdf Pending permission from the author.


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