Photo: Courtesy of Phillip S. Clifford

Individual development plans provide a formal planning process to help individuals identify long-term career goals and areas where further development is needed. While postdoctoral fellows must acknowledge responsibility for their own careers, the creation of an IDP requires full participation and open communication between a postdoctoral fellow and mentor.

The first step in constructing an IDP is the most critical, and often the most difficult: You must conduct a self-assessment. Make an objective evaluation of your skills, strengths, and interests. Your mentor may be most helpful in assessing your scientific skills, but the feedback from your peers, family, and friends may reveal some surprising insights about personal characteristics that might influence your career. Make an inventory of your long-term career objectives. Ask yourself questions about the type of work you enjoy and what you value most in a career--recognition, money, challenging problems, independence, and...

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