University of Wisconsin–Madison

Individual Development Plan

Helping Your Mentee Write an Individual Development Plan

A well-crafted Individual Development Plan (IDP) acts as both a planning and a communication tool, allowing your mentee to identify their research and career goals and to communicate them with you, their mentor team, department chairs and advisors. Throughout this section you will find various resources on IDPs and how to create them.

  • When to use IDPs

    Before a Mentor is Selected

    If a mentee does not currently have a mentor, he/she should consider clarifying his/her goals, strengths and areas of desired growth before beginning to interview mentors. The self-reflection template can help mentees more fully articulate their passion and intention. Once complete, use as a launching point for conversations with potential mentee to help you both assess fit.

    After a Mentor is Selected

    Once you have committed to the mentoring relationship, use the IDP to launch explicit conversations about future directions for the mentee’s research and career. Map out concrete steps and timelines for completing each phase.

    During an Established Mentoring Relationship

    If you are already working with a mentee, development of the IDP becomes a joint effort where you offer guidance to your mentee about a broad range of possible paths forward and practicalities that should be considered. In light of this big picture perspective, the mentee can then make informed and shared choices on which direction to head and how to spend his/her time. Starting from the same place, you can map out detailed research and career development plans, establish timelines and establish mutual expectations.

    Important: The IDP should be a dynamic document that grounds and guides your mentee as they progress and adapts with them as theoretical plans become actual realities.

  • Writing an IDP in 4 Steps

    Writing an IDP is a straightforward 4 step process:

    1. Mentee conducts a self-assessment

    • Assesses skills, strengths and areas in need of development
    • Takes a realistic look at your current abilities
    • Outlines long-term career objectives

    2. Survey opportunities with your mentee

    • Identify career opportunities
    • Identify developmental needs
    • Prioritize developmental areas

    3. Mentee writes an IDP and revises it with your input

    • Identify specific skills and strengths that the mentee needs to develop
    • Define the approaches and time frame for the mentee to obtain the specific skills and strengths
    • Identify a research project/area of excellence to match abilities and career goals

    4. Implement the plan and revise as needed

    • Use plan to delineate roles and responsibilities
    • Break larger goals into smaller plans with more detailed steps and timelines
    • Revise and modify the plan as necessary, reviewing the plan with your mentor regularly
  • IDP Examples

    Compared to peers without a written plan, post docs who begin their appointment with and IDP developed in collaboration with their mentors:
    1) Are 23% more likely to submit papers to peer-reviewed journals;
    2)Publish first-authored papers at a 30% higher rate; and
    3) Are 25% less likely to report that their mentor didn’t meet their initial expectation

    (Davis, G. 2005. Doctors without orders. American Scientist 93(3, supplement). http://postdoc.sigmaxi.org/results/).

    A well-crafted Individual Development Plan (IDP) can serve as both a planning and a communication tool, allowing junior researchers to identify their research and career goals and to communicate these goals to mentors, PIs and advisors. Included below are several templates to help get you started.

    IDP Templates for Graduate Students & Post-Doctoral Fellows

    Science Careers MyIDP:
    An interactive website guides users to create an IDP through skills, interest, and value assessments, as well as goal and timeline development. http://myidp.sciencecareers.org/

    Paper-based guides & templates:

    IDP Templates for Junior Faculty in Clinical and Translational Research