The individual development plan (IDP) is a career planning tool that aims to assist PhD trainees in self-assessing skills, exploring career paths, developing short- and long-term career goals, and creating action plans to achieve those goals. The National Institutes of Health and many academic institutions have created policies that mandate completion of the IDP by both graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. Despite these policies, little information exists regarding how widely the tool is used and whether it is useful to the career development of PhD trainees. Herein, we present data from a multi-institutional, online survey on the use and effectiveness of the IDP among a group of 183 postdoctoral researchers. The overall IDP completion rate was 54% and 38% of IDP users reported that the tool was helpful to their career development. Positive relationships with one’s advisor, confidence regarding completing training, trainees’ confidence about their post-training career, and a positive experience with institutional career development resources are associated with respondents’ perception that the IDP is useful for their career development. We suggest that there is a need to further understand the nuanced use and effectiveness of the IDP in order to determine how to execute the use of the tool to maximize trainees’ career development.

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Published in F1000 Research, v. 7, article 1132, p. 1-27.

© 2018 Vanderford NL et al.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, 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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N.L.V. is supported by the University of Kentucky’s Cancer Center Support Grant [NCI P30CA177558], the Center for Cancer and Metabolism [NIGMS P20GM121327], and the Appalachian Career Training in Oncology (ACTION) Program [NCI R25CA221765]. T.M.E is supported by the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio's Science Education Partnership Award [NIGMS R25GM129182].