Career Development

Individual Development Plan (IDP)

A postdoctoral research associateship provides an opportunity to hone your professional skills and advance your career, but if you don't actively create a plan to develop your skills and expand your experiences, achieving your long-term career goals will be difficult. To ensure a positive outcome, you must take a proactive approach to qualifying yourself for your next job and, ultimately, your career.

Five Steps

to create an effective IDP:
  1. Explicitly define your career goals.
    list of jobs, in order of preference

    Make a list of three or four jobs—in order of preference—you might apply for after you complete your postdoc.
    Will your next job fulfill your career goals, or will you need intermediate positions?
  2. Completely list the skills, talents, and abilities necessary for the career path(s) you specified in Step 1 (see IDP templates below).
  3. Honestly reflect on your current skills, talents, and abilities; list your strengths and your development needs. Get an outside opinion from a trusted mentor, too.
  4. Thoughtfully compare your lists from Steps 2 and 3 and develop a detailed plan for your individual development; that is, what can you do or learn in your current position to become even more competitive in your next job search?
  5. Earnestly set goals and completion dates, and continually work to achieve them.

Use a Mentor

Completing this process with the insights and advice of a mentor is extremely valuable. A mentor can objectively assess your relative strengths and areas in need of improvement, may know of additional development resources and activities, and provide an informed perspective on your plan's potential for success.


As you add to your list of achievements and increase your skills and experience, you'll gain a fresh perspective on your ultimate goal. Some of the career paths you identified initially may no longer interest you in a few years, and you may become aware of other options that you're newly qualified for. New opportunities await, so return to your IDP at least once a year to check your progress and update your plans to reflect your evolving interests and capabilities.

Postdoc/Mentor Compact

Provided by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), this Postdoc/Mentor Compact serves as both a pledge and a reminder to mentors and their postdoctoral appointees that their conduct in fulfilling their commitments to one another should reflect the highest professional standards and mutual respect.

Annual Performance Review

This annual review form (PDF) is provided primarily as a model process to assist PIs, faculty mentors, and postdocs in the postdoctoral annual review. Depending on your specific needs, you may use any or all portions of the document, or simply use it as a guide to create your own.

smiling postdoc