Mentors are Made, not Born

Photo: Courtesy of R. Julian Preston R. Julian Preston Principal investigators should ideally help equip postdoctoral fellows for careers, but this advisory role often receives few resources and little attention. Nevertheless, the changing nature and stringency of today's job market has made the mentor's task more difficult. One tool that may help is an Individual Development Plan (IDP), such as the one recently developed by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (

Julian Preston
Sep 1, 2002
Photo: Courtesy of R. Julian Preston
 R. Julian Preston

Principal investigators should ideally help equip postdoctoral fellows for careers, but this advisory role often receives few resources and little attention. Nevertheless, the changing nature and stringency of today's job market has made the mentor's task more difficult.

One tool that may help is an Individual Development Plan (IDP), such as the one recently developed by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) (www.faseb.org/opar/ppp/educ/idp.html). IDPs help mentors and their protégés identify both professional development needs and career objectives. The concept of IDPs is not new, but there is growing realization that they should be incorporated into training practices for postdocs.

Each of the three component words in the IDP provides a measure of the value of the plan: Individual emphasizes the need to consider the unique training and career goals of each fellow. Development stresses the identification...

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