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Individual Development Plans for GSAS Students & Postdocs

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What is an Individual Development Plan (IDP)?

An individual development plan (IDP) is a personalized, interactive tool that students can use to identify and prioritize professional goals, and construct an actionable strategy to achieve them. Whether they are planning careers in academia or exploring non-academic positions, graduate students and postdocs will find IDPs to be a valuable device for managing their career and professional development while at Yale.  An IDP provides mechanisms for:

  • Self-Assessment: Clarify competencies and preferences
  • Career Exploration: Research options and identify career paths of interest
  • Goal Setting and Progress Tracking: Determine concrete steps to learn about careers, obtain relevant professional skills and experience, and document actions taken towards goals, allowing for reflection and modification of plans as goals change

Tip:  All Yale postdocs are required to complete an Annual IDP Report (PDF, Word) with their faculty mentor. This report is intended to be a summary of the actual IDP. To learn more about IDP requirements for postdocs, click here.


Why Do an IDP?

An IDP equips PhD students and postdocs with the understanding and tools to take charge of their professional development at Yale. Students use a structured planning framework to set achievable career development, skill-building and research goals. Students will be able to:

  • Assess the transferability of their research, skills, and methods, empowering them with new perspectives on the value of their PhD work both within and outside of the academy
  • Identify potential career options and ways to learn more about them
  • Determine gaps in professional skills (e.g. transferable skills such as communications, leadership, and project management as well as technical skills) and create action plans to develop them while at Yale
  • Raise their productivity with tools that help them manage their time, direct their efforts more efficiently, and successfully meet PhD milestones and career development goals
  • Acquire a useful framework for facilitating communications and establishing clear expectations with their faculty advisors and mentors

By achieving greater clarity of career goals earlier in their graduate career, students will be better positioned to invest in professional development that will enhance their success in the job market, regardless of their intended career path.

Quote: Postdocs who developed training plans with their advisors at the start of their appointments published more papers, reported greater satisfaction with their postdoctoral experience, gave their advisors higher ratings, and experienced fewer conflicts with their advisors compared with postdocs who had not developed plans." (Putting PhDs to Work:  Career Planning for Today's Scientist)

Who is Responsible for Completing the IDP?

Graduate students and postdocs hold the primary responsibility for completing the IDP. Students should perform self-assessments, research career options and opportunities to broaden their skills and professional experience, and arrange meetings with mentors.  The IDP should be updated annually to reflect new accomplishments and any changes in personal and professional objectives.

What is the Role of Faculty in the IDP Process?

Faculty mentors play a vital role in supporting students through different stages of the process.  Faculty can:

  • Identify gaps in transferable (e.g. communication, project management) and technical skills
  • Create realistic short-term goals and determine timelines
  • Clarify expectations
  • Identify opportunities for professional development
  • Make professional introductions to help students identify additional mentors and build their network

The ability for graduate students to speak confidentially and candidly with faculty mentors is a critical part of the IDP process.  One-on-one, open discussion allows for constructive feedback, reduces the potential for conflict, improves mentor-student relationships, and facilitates student progress towards their professional goals.

Tip: IDP discussions may include consideration of career paths outside of academia. A student’s career decision will be driven by their unique set of values, interests and personal circumstances. The Office of Career Strategy offers an extensive portfolio of resources and programming to assist students interested in exploring careers broadly and to help them prepare for a non-academic job search.

 What Support is Available to Students and Postdocs Completing an IDP?

The Office of Career Strategy offers many resources to help GSAS students and Yale postdocs complete each stage of the IDP.

Get started by:

  • Requesting OCS' new workshop "Plan and Manage your Career Development" for your department or student or postdoc group. This workshop will cover the importance of actively defining and managing your career goals; the career decision making process; valuable career exploration resources and how to use them; and ways to take concrete actions to accomplish goals. Interested?  Request a workshop here!

Make progress by:

Web-Based IDP Tools

These online IDP tools provide a wealth of guidance and information on career planning and exploration, as well as useful recordkeeping modules and timelines.  While they have been created for particular disciplines in mind, many of the resources are useful to a broader audience.

  MyIDP (free) ImaginePhD (free) ChemIDP (free)
Audience Graduate students in STEM fields Graduate students in the humanities and social sciences, BUT relevant for any grad student interested in non-STEM career paths. Graduate students with chemistry backgrounds. BUT much of the content is relevant to students in other STEM fields.

Self-Assessment Tools

Interests, values, skills  Interests, values, skills Values and skills 
Career Exploration Resources 20 science-based career paths. Resources for each path include a selection of articles, books and professional societies. 16 job families of interest to humanities and social science students. Included for each job family are:
• PhD profiles, articles and podcasts about career paths, and sample job descriptions
• Networking resources, e.g. LinkedIn groups, industry associations.
• Job search resources, such as sample resumes and cover letters; industry jobs boards; and sample postings
45 career paths, including many outside of chemistry (e.g. social impact/activism, technical communication), that are searchable by industry sector and roles. Includes for each career:
• Roles and responsibilities
• Professional skills needed
• Sample salaries
• Profiles of practitioners
• Jobs boards, professional associations, and other industry resources
Goal Setting and Progress Tracking Module for identifying and monitoring career, skills and project goals.  Includes record-keeping tools, printable plan summary, and certificate of completion Module for short- and long-term career planning, including lists of suggested goals for 1) degree completion; 2) career, skill, and personal development; and 3) funding.  Ability to create a timeline with a downloadable calendar. Module for setting goals and tracking accomplishments, with email reminders for upcoming deadlines.
Professional Development   Lists of online courses, training programs, and other opportunities for each of the 16 job families Extensive list of technical and professional skill-building strategies by how they might be acquired (e.g. activity, online course, volunteering, research)
Other Module for constructing a mentoring team    
More info 13-part series of articles to help guide students. ImaginePhD FAQs About ChemIDP

Online IDP Tools