Background: The Individual Development Plan (IDP) was introduced as a tool to aid in career planning for doctoral trainees. Despite the National Institutes of Health and academic institutions creating policies that mandate the use of IDPs, little information exists regarding the use and effectiveness of the career planning tool.
Methods: We conducted a multi-institutional, online survey to measure IDP use and effectiveness. The survey was distributed to potential respondents via social media and direct email. IDP survey questions were formatted using a five-point Likert scale (strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree and strongly disagree). For data analysis purposes, responses were grouped into two categories (agree versus does not agree/disagree). The data were summarized as one-way frequencies and the Pearson chi-square test was used to determine the statistical significance of univariate associations between the survey variables and an outcome measure of the effectiveness of the IDP.
Results: Among all respondents, fifty-three percent reported that they are required to complete an IDP while thirty-three percent reported that the tool is helpful to their career development. Further, our data suggests that the IDP is most effective when doctoral students complete the tool with faculty mentors with whom they have a positive relationship. Respondents who are confident about their career plans and who take advantage of career development resources at their institution are also more likely to perceive that the IDP is useful for their career development.
Conclusion: Given the nuanced use and effectiveness of the IDP, we call for additional research to characterize the overall use and effectiveness of the IDP and to determine whether there are unintended negative consequences created through the use of the tool. Furthermore, we recommend an enhancement of career development infrastructure that would include mentorship training for faculty in order to provide substantially more career planning support to trainees.

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Notes/Citation Information

Published in F1000Research, v. 7, article 722, p. 1-18.

© 2018 Vanderford NL et al.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Data associated with the article are available under the terms of the Creative Commons Zero "No rights reserved" data waiver (CC0 1.0 Public domain dedication).

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Funding Information

N.L.V. is supported by the University of Kentucky’s Cancer Center Support Grant (NCI P30CA177558) and the Center for Cancer and Metabolism (NIGMS P20GM121327). The authors thank the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Texas Health San Antonio for providing partial funding for the study.

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Dataset 1. Individual Development Plan survey data

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Supplementary File 1. Self-reported institution of all respondents

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Supplementary File 2. One-way frequencies of all respondents, separated by demographic characteristics

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Supplementary File 3. Univariate analysis of the survey’s variables and the perception of Individual Development Plan helpfulness among respondents who completed an IDP

eeabd3f1-c479-4230-9bf0-6f7bc847c20f.pdf (40 kB)
Supplementary File 4. Example copy of the survey questions relevant to this study