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Individual Development Plan (IDP)

Suggested Guidelines

While you, as a graduate student, are responsible for your career trajectory and success, Stanford faculty members will provide mentorship, guidance, and support relative to both your scientific and career goals. Some advisors are more structured and formal in their approach to such discussions; others less so. This document provides a point of focus for a formal discussion surrounding both your research and career progression. It is important that you take the initiative as a student to schedule an initial meeting with your advisor to address these topics, and to ensure that this meeting takes place on an annual basis.

Remember that graduate school is a training period. To get the best training, it is important to be continually advancing your research, and to continually develop independent thinking, identification of key questions, and strategies to answer these questions as a scientist. At the same time, it is important to understand the full range of career options and opportunities that are available to you, and to tailor your education and training while at Stanford to prepare for success along the career path that suits you best.

Meeting Timeline

To ensure that good mentoring and feedback happen, in addition to your regular scientific discussions, please be sure to schedule: (1) an initial meeting at the start of your graduate training, (2) an annual progress meeting(s), (3) a pre-graduation planning meeting at 18 months before graduation, and (4) a post-graduation meeting upon completion of your degree. These meetings should be one-on-one, not part of larger meetings. Many students have found the following meeting objectives and timelines to be useful:

  • Initial meeting: A formal discussion with the Director of Graduate Studies in your program or other designated mentor during January of your first year of graduate school.

    —Meeting goals: Discuss career-orientation, objectives, research-project considerations, and appraisal of needed skills.

  • Annual progress meeting(s): A formal discussion each January, or other agreed upon month, for follow-up on both your research and career progression. Thesis committee meetings represent another point in time for discussing research progress, and it can be valuable to include discussion of career plans and goals with your thesis committee as well. These conversations, along with consultation with professionals at the SoM Career Center, are great ways to enlist broad, diverse, and informed perspectives.

    —Meeting goals: evaluate progress and set both research and career goals for the following year.

  • Pre-graduation planning meeting: A formal discussion as the end of your training draws near (about 18 months prior to graduation is recommended).

    —Meeting goals: address final expectations/potential challenges to defending the dissertation, discuss project closure details and timeline, review professional applications, and make arrangements for references.

  • Final, post-graduation meeting: A formal discussion before leaving Stanford (1-2 months beforehand, upon completion of graduation).

    —Meeting goal: celebration of this important milestone, appreciation for the support and guidance received, feedback to faculty regarding your experience, and opportunities for staying connected.


The School of Medicine Career Center has developed two documents to aid in student/faculty mentor conversations about research and career progress:

  • Years 1-2
  • Years 3-5

These will be made available to all graduate students and faculty in the School of Medicine in the fall.

Further, Science Careers has developed a MyIDP tool to help you define your career interests moving forward. You might find this useful in your conversation with your mentor as well.

Most of these career and research progress meetings will take place in January. Training for using the tools above, and for general recommendations for making the most of these conversations, will be offered fall quarter.

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