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Graduate School

Graduate Student IDP Instructions

Individual Development Plans (IDPs) for Graduate Students provide a written framework for identifying professional development needs in pursuit of career goals. IDPs create an opportunity for the graduate student and faculty mentors to openly discuss career goals and alternatives while working together to create a plan to achieve those goals.

Process and Responsibilities

1. Self-Assessment

Before starting to create the IDP, graduate students should conduct a thorough self-assessment of their skills and interests. You can use one of the following resources to help guide you through the self-assessment process.

myIDP at ScienceCareers

Most helpful for graduate students in the sciences and offers: 

  • Exercises to help you examine your skills, interests, and values
  • A list of 20 scientific career paths with a prediction of which ones best fit your skills and interests
  • A tool for setting strategic goals for the coming year, with optional reminders to keep you on track
  • Articles and resources to guide you through the process
National Association of Graduate-Professional Students: Resources 

The NAGPS provides a link to a variety of resources that may be of interest as you progress through various stages of your graduate education:

  • Financial Information
  • Graduate School Life
  • Job Seeking
  • Legislative
  • Resume’/Curriculum Vitae
  • Stress Relief
  • Thesis/Dissertation Assistance
National Postdoctoral Association: 6 Core Competencies and Competency Checklist 

The NPA has created a Postdoctoral Core Competencies Toolkit to provide guidance to postdocs seeking to develop a diverse professional skillset. The NPA has determined 6 Core competencies for postdocs to consider for training and development:

  • Discipline-specific conceptual knowledge
  • Research skill development
  • Communication skills
  • Professionalism
  • Leadership and management skills
  • Responsible conduct of research

As a tool to assist postdocs with their self-assessment, the Office of Research encourages postdocs to assess their core competencies through the NPA Core Competencies Self-Assessment Checklist.

2. Discuss Career Opportunities with Mentors

  • In addition to seeking guidance from your mentor, ask another faculty member to serve as a secondary mentor.
  • Determine what opportunities interest you.
  • Need more ideas? Visit the Career Center Site.
  • Compare current skills and strengths with those needed for desired careers.
  • Determine which skills areas need to be developed in order to prepare for desired career.
  • Work with mentors to determine how to develop the needed skill sets.

3. Create an Individual Development Plan

This document is a roadmap to achieving your career goals. It is a flexible document which may be revised and updated frequently. The goal is to identify current strengths and skill sets, as well as areas to be further developed to work towards career goals. It is helpful to break larger projects into smaller projects for inclusion in the IDP.

  • You should complete the first draft of the IDP on your own after a discussion of career opportunities with your mentors.
  • Share your draft IDP document with your mentors and work together to identify your strengths, as well as areas where you need to acquire additional skills or training.
  • Update the IDP to reflect the recommendations of your mentors.
  • Edit, update and revise your IDP as often as needed and discuss changes with your faculty mentors.

4. Put Your Plan Into Action

In order to for the IDP to be helpful in your career development, you must work to bring the IDP to life through learning new skills and strengthening areas of your background identified in your IDP. The IDP can be revised as circumstances change and should be reviewed with your mentors as needed.

5. IDP Template

Please download this word document and use it to complete your IDP to share with your mentor(s).

Download IDP Template


Resources Available to USC Graduate Students

The Graduate School

The Graduate School provides guidance for a broad array of professional development opportunities as well as assistance for simply navigating the process of achieving your degree from admission to convocation.

Center for Teaching Excellence

The Center for Teaching Excellence offers frequent seminars on current topics in teaching, as well as a monthly Focus on Learning, Innovation and Pedagogy (FLIP) discussion group.

The National Association of Graduate-Professional Students

The NAGPS sponsors an annual conference and provides a variety of benefits and resources to graduate and professional students.

The Graduate Student Association

The GSA is the student government voice of graduate students at the USC. Opportunities for involvement and information on a wide array of happenings on campus are available through this group.

USC Postdoctoral Association

The USC Postdoctoral Association offers monthly professional development seminars, as well as networking opportunities.

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