IDP: Individual Development Plan

The Individual Development Plan (IDP) is a tool to help you assess and evaluate your skills and define short and long-term professional and personal goals to successfully complete your graduate training and enter your career of choice. It also serves as a tool to guide the mentoring relationship between you and your faculty advisor.   


What is an Individual Development Plan (IDP)?

An individual development plan (IDP) is an open-ended, student-driven document, created to help you to align your personal and professional goals with your academic expectations and responsibilities. As you pursue your graduate degree, developing and revising a comprehensive plan like the IDP will give you critical information for building the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary for your career, and to prepare you for meaningful personal or professional opportunities after graduation. The IDP is designed to complement the resources your own graduate program will provide, as well as your own mentoring model for student success. As of 2017, all PhD students at the University of Florida are required to complete an IDP.  


What is the format of an IDP?

The Graduate School provides two general IDP templates (Year 1 IDP Template and Year 2+ IDP Template) but it is possible that your program has a different format and expectations. The template is comprised of a self-assessment of your current skills and interests, a summary of your goals for the upcoming year based on your self-assessment, and an action plan to shape your skillset, created in conjunction with your advisor.


How will an IDP help me?

The IDP will serve as a guide to ensure progress is made towards your unique personal and professional goals, and as a mentoring tool to establish goals and expectations with your advisor. The IDP must be revised every year, based on an updated assessment of your goals and skills, as well as the progress you make throughout your career, to create attainable steps for fulfilling long-term goals.

How do I fill out an IDP?

Evaluate your current aspirations, goals, and responsibilities by using the open-ended questions as a framework. Consider your short- and long-term goals as well as what actions and resources will be necessary for you to reach them. Reflect on your responsibilities in your program and how to fulfill them (Year 1).

Take 15-20 minutes to complete the self-assessment to evaluate your current strengths and weaknesses. Be honest about your abilities, mark your ability and development from 1(low) to 3 (high).

Identify target goals for this year by using the “Goal” checkbox in the relevant skill categories.

Complete the self-assessment summary, highlighting the skills in which you are most confident (3’s) and those in which you are less confident and need to improve (1’s).

From the assessment survey and summary, determine your high priority and low priority goals for the short term (within the next 6 months) and the long term (more than 6 months away). Be sure to review your IDP draft to be sure you are meeting the expectations listed at the beginning of the document and any additional expectations set by your department.

Make an appointment to see your advisor and discuss your self-assessment summary and existing goals. Develop an action plan based on this conversation, to address your target goals, skills, and competencies for the next 12 months. Write this plan together, with the aim of updating and revising it as you make academic and personal progress during your graduate career.

As you implement your IDP, remember to adjust your plans as your circumstances change. If necessary, meet with your advisor throughout the year, to discuss your progress and your achievements.


How should I write my goals?

Writing clear goals and how you will reach them is an important part of completing long-term goals like a graduate degree program, or advancing in your personal or professional aims beyond your time at UF. Using the S.M.A.R.T. goal format may be helpful in clarifying your goals for the future. In this format, goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. For more information in writing S.M.A.R.T. goals, use this how-to guide from the University of California.


I’m not sure what to write; who should I reach out to for help?

It’s ok if you are unable to provide clear answers on parts of the IDP template; the document is meant to guide you in formulating a plan for your future. This plan will be assembled and refined over the course of your graduate program. If this is your first time trying to answer a number of these questions, consider writing a first, incomplete draft and coming back to it.

Your graduate coordinator and advisor can provide guidance in completing your IDP and address any questions you may have. You can also find help and examples at MyIDP (for STEM), ImaginePhD (for Humanities), or UF's general template.


My scores on the self-assessment are very low; where should I start making goals?

It is common in self-assessments, especially for graduate students, to be overly self-critical. Make sure you give yourself adequate credit for what you know, and can do, at your current career stage. While you will always have room to improve in your professional development, try to avoid unfair comparisons, particularly with people that are already established in their fields.

If you are unsure where to start, it may be helpful to reach out to a friend, someone in your cohort, or your advisor to check the veracity of your self-assessment. Feel free to try to draft several S.M.A.R.T. goals and ask for feedback.


Does my IDP replace my plan of study?

An IDP does not replace your plan of study. It can serve as a complement and could be reviewed concurrently with your plan of study. The formal academic requirements and milestones of a program may still be outlined and monitored via a plan of study.

What do I do with my IDP once I have completed it?

You should follow any program-level procedures that are already in place; you may need to submit a copy directly to your advisor, or graduate coordinator. After sharing your IDP, you will have at least one meeting with your advisor, to review the contents of your IDP, as it pertains to any goals you have developed for the year.

If this is your first year in the program, you may end up discussing longer-term goals that are pertinent later in your career. If you are nearing the end of your program, you may identify concrete goals for your time as a student, but also additional personal/professional goals after you graduate.


How should I prepare for my meeting with my advisor?

Here are several tips for preparing for your IDP meeting with your advisor:

  1. Be prepared to discuss how the goals set in your IDP will benefit your professional development, research, and degree progress in the short-term (next six months) and long-term (more than six months).
  2. It can be useful to research potential resources that may aid in achieving the goals you have set in the IDP. UF’s Office of Graduate Professional Development (OGPD) has many helpful resources, organized by the six competencies in the IDP. You can also explore the Master’s or Doctoral roadmaps to help chart your course in professional development.
  3. Send your IDP to your advisor a few days before your scheduled meeting so they can read your assessment and goals ahead of time.
  4. Manage your expectations about the advice and help you will receive from your advisor. Be knowledgeable about the topics your advisor has expertise in and those topics that may require a discussion with a different mentor. You may also ask your advisor and/or committee members if they have someone else in mind that you could reach out to help you in achieving your training goals.


Where can I find resources or workshops, to reach my goals?

UF’s Office of Graduate Professional Development (OGPD) can help you hone skills and gain experience in all six areas found in the IDP. The OGPD has a resource library for each competency: research skills and knowledge, management and leadership, effectiveness and purpose, professionalism, communication, and career advancement. The Chart Your Course: A Strategic Roadmap for Graduate Student Success at UF breaks down the development of these competencies into three stages during your graduate studies. The UF OGPD also holds workshops each semester to aid in your professional development.

For help with job search materials and job interview skills, the UF Career Connections Center is available for individual appointments for graduate students and offers workshops and a resource library to help you gain valuable professional development skills. UF has many other resources available, many are found in this website. You may also contact the OGPD for individual professional development consultations.