Navigating Your IDP

Note: This information is culled from the OPA website and condensed. 

While you are responsible for your career trajectory and success, faculty should provide mentoring, guidance, and resources, in both scientific and career development, to support your goals. Sponsors should initiate those conversations and discuss research direction, progress, and career goals. However, sponsors may not be accustomed to such discussions or may get caught up in other priorities. You should request those conversations, as it is your future that is impacted negatively by an absence of mentoring, and positively by proactive feedback and advice.

Remember that a postdoctoral appointment is a training period. To get the best training, you must be dedicated to the scientific goals of your project and that you exhibit and continue to develop independent thinking, identification of key questions, and strategies to answer these questions.

The Individual Development Plan (IDP) is a way to explore and define training goals, professional development needs, and career objectives with your sponsor. It guides you to reflect on where you are and where you would like to be, and defines specific actions for goal achievement. Your IDP and annual planning meeting with your sponsor are intended to help you:

  • Consider your training and professional development from a broad perspective.
  • Pause and reflect on goals that can get lost amidst daily research activities.
  • Set clear short-, mid- and long-term training and development goals.
  • Have open and direct dialogue with your sponsor.
  • Establish clear expectations/steps.
  • Facilitate self-reflection and fruitful discussions.
  • Create a written action plan for your individual goals and career of choice.
  • Identify and use resources to help you achieve your goals.

All postdoctoral scholars must complete and discuss an IDP with their faculty sponsor annually. Stanford is committed to postdoc training. The IDP provides an important component of this training by:

  • Encouraging self-reflection and consideration of progress, goals and needs;
  • Ensuring discussion of the postdoc's goals, progress, and action plan with the faculty mentor at least once per year; and
  • Helping to enact short-term goals that work toward long-term goals.

For more information: