Individual Career Development Plans

Throughout your training, have you ever wondered about what is truly needed to be a research leader or thought about what are your career options after finishing your degree? Were the feelings associated with that question overwhelming? You are not alone. When we talk to graduate students and postdoctoral fellows (PDFs), there is a common struggle with identifying career options (within or outside of academia), and learning how to transition into those careers following training.

Studies have shown that active career management increases career success. In fact, it has been shown not just to help you identify and best prepare for your career of choice, but also to help you in the immediate term as it has been linked to shorter time-to-degree completion and higher success in receiving external awards.

CIHR encourages you to create a well thought out plan that incorporates your personal values, strengths, skills, experiences and helps you identify any skill gaps that you may have.

What is an Individual Career Development Plan (IDP)?

An IDP is a tool that supports graduate students and PDFs in actively preparing for the career of their choice by exploring career paths, establishing career goals, and identifying skill gaps, culminating in an action plan to achieve their career goal(s). The use of the IDP presents an opportunity for self-evaluation, and allows graduate students and PDFs to map their progress over time. Finally, IDPs serve as a communication tool between trainees and mentors (supervisor or other academic mentor) regarding the training outcomes and expectations of both parties.

There are six components of an IDP:

1. Self-Assessment

  • Where am I now?
  • What skills / experiences have I already developed?

4. Networking

  • Who can help me? (multiple mentors)
  • Identify resources and individuals who can provide advice and help to develop required skills/ experiences.

2. Goal Definition

  • Where do I want to go career-wise?
  • What careers are available to me?
  • It is important to identify a "Plan A" and a "Plan B".

5. Develop Plan

  • How will I get there?
  • Depending on individual, both explicit step-by-step instructions/plans or high-level plans can work.

3. Skills Definition

  • What skills and experiences do I need to be successful in my career?
  • Trainees/supervisors work together to identify opportunities to develop the skills/experiences.

6. Implementation & Revision

  • Take steps indicated in your IDP towards your goals.
  • IDP can be revised multiple times as required.
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