What is a Postdoctoral Mentoring Plan or IDP?
A postdoctoral mentoring plan or individual development plan (IDP) is a key tool in establishing expectations and opening a line of communication for postdoctoral scholars and supervisors to discuss professional development objectives and career goals.
Suggestions from Regents' Professor George Rieke, Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory
Early Career Steps: "Your postdoctoral appointment is an early step in your career, and while you are in it, you will want to gain as much experience as possible to help with the steps to follow."
Good Start and Mentorship: "The first few months in the position will likely be fully occupied in learning the skills for the specific work you will be doing, developing relationships with colleagues, and generally getting off to a good start. You should use this experience to hone your thoughts about your future career and once these are in place, you should discuss them with your supervisor/advisor. There are likely to be other potential mentors in the department to discuss these thoughts with also, and in fact doing so is an excellent way to expand your circle of colleagues. Depending on the nature of the relationship with these mentors, you may feel welcome to have informal discussions frequently as your thoughts evolve."
Communication with Mentors: "Alternatively (or in addition) you may find it useful to develop a more formal plan, such as the example of an individual development plan (IDP) given below. It is up to you whether any such written plan is kept as personal guidance or whether you discuss it with your mentors and have them help with its development. In any case, you might request a relatively formal meeting with your supervisor/advisor periodically (annually, or since postdoctoral appointments are short, every six months), to get timely and thorough feedback about your performance and how it supports your plans."
The American Association for the Advancement of Science provides a free interactive-career-planning and development tool called myIDP.
National Postdoctoral Association Resources
The University of Arizona is a member of the National Postdoctoral Association. All faculty at the University of Arizona are eligible to create a login as an ‘Individual Affiliate Member’ to gain access to the many resources available including:
Other National Resources
In addition to those listed above, there are many online resources with guidelines and templates to help you build an effective IDP:
- The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) provides basic guidelines for postdoctoral scholars and mentors to develop an individual development plan.
- The Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy has provided recommendations on enhancing the postdoctoral experience relevant to mentoring and individual development plans (National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. Enhancing the Postdoctoral Experience for Scientists and Engineers: A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2000.)
University of Arizona Resources
The University of Arizona Research Development Services offers resources for creating a Postdoctoral Mentoring Plan (National Science Foundation) or Individual Development Plan (National Institutes of Health).
- For examples of Postdoctoral Mentoring and Individual Development Plans, please contact Research Development Services at firstname.lastname@example.org