Every trainee in the biosciences should consider which tools will help them define and achieve their career goals. Just like the scientific research process – which is undertaken with established methods and equipment – career planning is aided by instruments that help support, plan, and track career development and learning objectives. An annual IDP is one component of a broader professional development strategy and mentoring program. There is no “right” format for an IDP. However, some common characteristics of IDPs include:
- incorporating self-assessment, and serving as a roadmap towards short-term and long-term objectives;
- establishing specific, clear steps towards developing relevant skills, knowledge, or experience, generally with an articulated timeline;
- documenting progress;
- providing a basis for discussion between trainees and mentors, producing a dynamic, “living” document to be modified at different junctures during a trainee’s program.
QB3-Berkeley’s IDPs: Tools for doctoral students and postdocs
The IDP process enables students and postdocs to be proactive – making the most of their training, staying well, and preparing for satisfying careers. To help both our faculty and trainees, QB3-Berkeley has created IDP templates tailored to students in early stages (pre-qual) and later stages (post-qual) of their doctoral programs, as well as for postdocs. This format of the IDP is entirely optional – a tool that provides structure and encouragement to help trainees achieve their goals.
For pre-qual doctoral students
For post-qual doctoral students
For postdoctoral fellows
Guidelines & what you will find in the QB3-Berkeley IDP
Each IDP includes two sections. The first contains assessment questions for the trainee. These questions are for self-reflection and organizing thoughts, ideas and ultimately prioritizing what might be discussed with a research advisor or another mentor. Three general categories are addressed in the assessment questions for doctoral students: Goals in Graduate School; Mentoring, Community and Well-being; and Career Planning. Please note that the postdoc IDP is similarly structured: Career Planning, Goals for Postdoc Position, and Mentoring, Community and Well-being.
The second part of the IDP provides a framework for setting goals and taking actions in the next year. The purpose of this part is to help shape discussions with your advisors/mentors on how to achieve your goals. Faculty and trainees have reported that reviewing these talking points together facilitates goal setting/planning. Remember, sharing the self-reflection portion of the IDP is optional, but may help your mentor(s) gain insights into your needs. Students who experience difficulty with the IDP process might consider seeking the support of your program’s graduate advisor.
Use our IDP templates in conjunction with QB3-Berkeley resources, including those found in the links below. Note: there are several alternative online IDP tools especially appropriate for postdocs, listed below under additional resources.
QB3-Berkeley Graduate and Postdoc Career Development
- Assessment of competencies/skills – worksheet
- SMART goal setting – worksheet
- Examples of goal setting – Career Exploration, Networking, Writing/Time Management, Funding (doctoral), Funding (postdoctoral)
- Berkeley Initiatives (expand and strengthen your skills and knowledge, and develop your community)
- Career Development/Career Fields (learn about 10 career fields in the public, private and non-profit sectors)
Other Berkeley Resources
- Graduate Student Professional Development Guide
- Graduate Student Instructor Teaching & Resource Center
- Writing Center
- Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) – resources for graduate students
- Career Center – self-assessment resources (values, interests, etc)
- Visiting Scholar and Postdoc Affairs – for Postdocs
- iBiology resources: presentations such as “How to Pick a Graduate Advisor” and courses including “Planning Your Scientific Journey“
- NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education, webinar series on Becoming a Resilient Scientist includes topics such as self advocacy and “feedback resilience”.
- NIH’s Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) describes the value of IDPs
- myIDP at Science Careers is a well-established online IDP. UCSF created four brief instructional videos (on YouTube) about using myIDP
- ChemIDP – American Chemical Society’s online IDP (requires free account)
- National Postdoc Association (NPA)’s six Core Competencies for postdocs
- From Molecular Cell (forum) article, “Yearly Planning Meetings: Individualized Development Plans Aren’t Just More Paperwork” (2015)
- Nature article, “Career planning: The next five years” (2015)
- Nature Biotechnology article, “Optimizing the utility of the individual development plan for trainees in the biosciences” (2018)