Leveraging Individual Development Plans for Career Planning

The start of a new year is always an exciting time. Many of us set aside time to reflect and assess our life journeys. We ask important questions such as, “Did I reach a personal financial goal over the last year?” or “Is where I am a reflection of where I want to be?”

The act of reflection and assessment frequently serves as a guide while one identifies areas for personal growth in the coming year. This practice of reflection and mapping out one’s goals for the coming year is equally important in both our personal and professional lives.

One tool for engaging in this meaningful work is an Individual Development Plan, which is often referred to as an IDP.

What is an IDP?

According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, an IDP is “a tool to assist employees in career and personal development. Its primary purpose is to help employees reach short and long-term career goals, as well as improve current job performance.” It is important to note that this is not a performance assessment tool. When considering one’s career goals, the IDP can be viewed as a roadmap that will carry one from point A to point Z. Although there may be multiple stops along one’s career path, the IDP is a compass that will keep us moving in the right direction.

What is in an IDP?

In my experience, an IDP consists of three important parts—goals, competencies, and developmental activities. We must know where we are going, what we need to know when we get there, and, finally, we must have mechanism to build the skills along the way.

Where Am I Going? Every IDP should contain clear goals, both short-term and long-term. A short-term goal should be viewed as a task that can be completed within one year. On the other hand, a long-term goal typically takes several years to complete. Both are important and serve different roles in helping one to stay motivated on their journey.

What Do I Need to Know When I Get There? After you have identified your short- and long-term career goals, one should set aside time to reflect on the key competencies needed to be successful in your target position. These competencies are the skill or knowledge needed to effectively fulfill the duties of the position. If you are unsure of the required competencies for this position, reach out to your agency’s Office of Human Resources or Training and Development Office for guidance. Often times, there will be a competency model available for your position of interest. If not, speak with someone in your desired career field.

How Will I Build the Skills? Developmental activities may be the most important aspect of your IDP. This is the area where you identify your plan to get where you want to go. Developmental activities may include informational interviews, detail experiences, job shadowing, classroom training, or stretch assignments/on-the-job training.

Implementing the IDP

Because no one can create a thriving career alone, after you have developed your IDP, consider how your supervisor and mentors can offer assistance in implementing your IDP. Sharing one’s IDP with these individuals can lead to a helpful dialogue about various items in the plan. By sharing your IDP with your supervisor, he/she can have a better understanding of where you see your career growing in the coming years. This gives them the opportunity to give you stretch projects and make recommendations for informational interviews or career shadowing experiences.

By sharing your IDP with your mentor, he/she can guide you behind the scenes as you pursue your career goals. This may include recommending books, reviewing your resume, and practicing interviews.

An IDP is an excellent tool for developing and planning your career. At the beginning of this year, think about taking some time to plan for the future.

Dawn M. Wayman is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She is a diversity and inclusion practitioner at the National Institutes of Health NIH), is a graduate of Morgan State University and the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and her Master of Health Science degree in Epidemiology, respectively. In 2017, Ms. Wayman joined the NIH Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) as a Diversity and Inclusion Strategist. In this role, Ms. Wayman serves as a consultant to multiple Institutes and Centers providing assistance to them in developing and executing their representational diversity and inclusion strategies. You can read her posts here.

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