Individual Development Plan (IDP)

An IDP is a private, dynamic, annual self-evaluation and career exploration tool for graduate students and postdocs.  Amongst its objectives are to help trainees in their career planning and skill development, outside of their academic progress in research.  The IDP is most meaningful if trainees (with support from their mentors) make full use of the IDP's potential to guide self-reflection and action steps towards professional goals, and update their IDP annually to reflect accomplishments and changes in career and research objectives.  

The MCB Department recognizes the significant utility of IDPs in setting and achieving career objectives.  NIH also appreciates the value of this component of training and is incorporating IDP use for both students and postdocs into the granting process. MCB requires IDP use by 1st, 3rd, and 5th-year students. MCB postdocs are encouraged to use IDPs annually as well.

IDP Tools and information: 

What You Need to Know

For Trainees (graduate students and postdocs):

An IDP is a useful tool to help graduate students and postdocs (1) set goals for their career, including goals impacting their research and training outcomes, and (2) identify steps towards achieving those goals (for example, when to apply for fellowships). In addition, the IDP process also increases the trainee's awareness of skills and their ownership of the steps towards their future career, which may improve the general feeling of well-being. 

  • Because the IDP is a tool that trainees can use to reach self-defined goals, each trainee should employ it as they see fit.  Nevertheless, IDP usage benefits tremendously from discussions with mentors, who can share perspectives and experience. The content of the IDP is confidential and for personal use; while you may be asked to provide proof of completion, you should not have to share the IDP itself.  

  • First-year students will be asked to fill out the pre-qual IDP in the fall, prior to meeting with their first-year advisor towards the end of the first rotation.  This will make the students aware of career considerations at an early stage, establish a 'baseline' to see how their goals may change, and give them the opportunity to discuss with advisors how these goals might influence rotation and thesis lab choices. 

  • The Graduate Affairs Committee (GAC) recognizes that individual students will have different needs for IDPs at different times in their career, and that mentoring styles of PIs also differ.  To accommodate these differences as well as to provide students with the opportunity to open career discussions with mentors, a new section will be included on the thesis committee meeting form for 3rd and 5th-year students.  This section will simply ask the student and the PI to affirm that they have met to discuss the IDP. The GAO will not collect completed IDPs nor specify the length or breadth of the IDP conversation.

  • Development of a postdoc-oriented IDP form has been completed by the QB3-Berkeley Graduate and Postdoc Career Development office,  Postdocs should use this form and to schedule discussions with PI mentors in an analogous manner.

For Faculty/PIs:

NIH encourages institutions "to assist graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to achieve their career goals within the biomedical research workforce through the use of Individual Development Plans (IDPs)".  In August of 2014, NIH stated that institutions/faculty are required to report on progress toward this goal in all progress reports. NIH's requirement to report on institutional policy for the use of IDPs is here: NOT-OD-14-113

  • MCB Faculty with NIH funding should report on UC Berkeley's IDP policy and IDP use in your lab in your NIH grant reports. You can use the following text:

"Recognizing the great utility of Individual Development Plans (IDPs) in setting and achieving career objectives, the UC-Berkeley MCB Department has helped create a custom IDP for trainees in the biomedical sciences.  This IDP, provides trainees with both an opportunity for guided self-reflection and also a structure to facilitate conversations with mentors.   MCB postdocs are encouraged to use an IDP annually, while IDP use by MCB graduate students is required in their 1st, 3rd, and 5th years coupled with a career discussion with mentors.  Regular training sessions are available to facilitate IDP use and maximize its impact."

  • Please note that reports will be stronger if they include more specific details on how IDPs are used in that particular research group.

  • The primary responsibility for completing the IDP rests with the trainees. PI support can include one-on-one meetings with a trainee to discuss certain parts of their IDP with their mentors (e.g. skills development and action steps). In general, constructive feedback in an open environment and receptiveness to long-term career goals outside of academia lead to the most effective use of the IDP. 

  • In addition to the obvious benefits to our trainees and compliance in grant reporting for NIH (see below), use of IDPs has the potential to increase Berkeley's competitiveness for funding, and increase student and postdoc recruitment and retention.

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