What is an IDP?

An Individual Development Plan (IDP) is a document that helps graduate students and postdoctoral researchers with:

  • Assessing skills, strengths, and interests for their careers
  • Creating a plan for developing skills to achieve their academic & career goals
  • Communicating effectively with mentors about evolving skills & goals 

IDPs employ planning tools and mentor conversations to empower students and postdocs to meet milestones and be intentional about added skill development and training. An individual IDP support students or postdocs in the process of assessing skills and interests, proactively exploring career options, and building strong relationships with mentors. Research demonstrates that individuals who develop and implement a career plan are more satisfied with their progress and more likely to to achieve career success as measured by salary, promotions, and level of responsibility.

  • Help students identify their own skill development and needs within and outside of their graduate program
  • Help graduate students transition fully into their role as an independent researcher and scholar
  • Create clear lines of communication between mentor and mentee
  • Create a mechanism for accountability to help students accomplish their goals
  • Develop a comprehensive plan to help students achieve academic and professional goals

IDP mentors may include several types of individuals that support research training. This could include faculty advisors, research or industry professionals, career advisors, or other types of support.

  • Creating a program-specific IDP (see templates for options)
  • Encouraging mentees to develop IDPs by showing interest and being available for discussion
  • Pointing mentees towards IDP resources 
  • Introducing your students to the IDP process or request a Grad Success Workshop
  • Using the IDP process to encourage students and support their individual goals and interests


  • Mentors may not have familiarity with IDPs. If the process if new to your program or specific mentor, they might want an overview before your meeting
  • Letting mentors know in advance of your meeting that you'd like to discuss your IDP
  • Sending a draft of your IDP in advance of the meeting so that your mentor can prepare for the discussion
  • Being as open to feedback as possible, understanding that goal setting and review is a common practice across all work sectors
  • Remember that you have the option of sharing portions of your IDP with mentors, but the master document is private to you. 

Iowa IDP Resources

Access the University of Iowa Sample Library for IDP templates and options



A career exploration & planning tool for PhD students & postdocs in the humanities and social sciences

myIDP logo


A career exploration and planning tool for PhD students and postdoctoral scholars seeking scientific career paths



 A career exploration and planning tool for PhD students and postdoctoral scholars in the chemical sciences

IDP Workshops & Training

Schedule an IDP training for your faculty meeting or a workshop for your students, program, or class. Contact Vivian Sheridan with some dates and times for a workshop.

Learn More

Learn more about IDPs with Assistant Dean Jennifer Teitle.