The University of Iowa

Individual Development Plan

An Individual Development Plan (IDP) is a student-generated document that lays the foundation for clear and effective communication with mentors. It also helps graduate students and postdoctoral scholars plan and achieve graduate school and career planning milestones.

Why IDPs?

IDP Template Options

Tips for Mentors/Mentees

IDP Workshops and Contacts


Why Create an IDP?

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.

What are the benefits of an IDP?

  • 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 Template and Tools

Access the University of Iowa IDP Sample Library.

Students can also start the process using one of the following free online tools:

Imagine PhD

ImaginePhD- A career exploration and planning tool for PhD students and postdoctoral scholars in the humanities and social sciences


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


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

Tips for Mentors/Mentees

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. Students might use the IDP process to identify new mentors and explore areas of interest. Remember that you have the option of sharing portions of your IDP with mentors, but the master document is private to you. 

Mentees should consider:

  • 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

Mentors should consider:

  • 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 such as MyIDP (Sciences), ImaginePhD (Humanities and Social Sciences), or ChemIDP (Chemistry)
  • Introducing your students to the IDP process or request a Graduate College trainer to visit and help students get started
  • Using the IDP process to encourage students and support their individual goals and interests

IDP Workshops and CONTACTS

For IDP workshops and student or faculty training, contact Assistant Dean Jennifer Teitle.

Faculty mentors using IDPs who have agreed to share their experiences:

Associate Dean Steve Varga, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology; Professor of Pathology