APA’s Individual Development Plan (IDP) — Set Goals


So far in our series, our postdocs, Hunter
and Amanda, have learned what an IDP is and why it is important. They’ve also learned
how to assess their values, skills and interests,
and they’ve started to research and explore careers that best suit them. After doing some career exploration our postdocs
have an idea of how their ideal job matches with their knowledge skills and abilities
and where there may be gaps/weaknesses. So how does one go about filling in these
gaps? Let’s use Hunter as an example. Hunter has
determined that he is most interested in a career as a statistician at a consulting firm.
From his career exploration, Hunter knows that
one of the responsibilities of PhD-level statisticians is to supervise and oversee the work of junior staff in his department. Hunter knows he needs experience in supervising
before he applies for this job. He asks his PI if he could supervise one of the undergraduates collecting data in the lab,
and she agrees. Hunter realizes, however, that being a competent supervisor is more
than agreeing to meet with someone once a week
to check on his or her progress. Hunter does some research and makes a list of behaviors
that good supervisors have: Communicate clearly and openly Provide regular feedback/schedules regular
meetings Are accessible/available Encourage supervisees’ personal growth and
development Motivate employees Let’s take one of the characteristics of
a good supervisor – communicates clearly and openly – and demonstrate how Hunter
can break down this learning goal into specific actions he
can take to develop skills as a supervisor. When it comes to The benefits to breaking
down this task into smaller learning goals is two-pronged: one, it will enable Hunter
to demonstrate that he has acquired particular
skills, and two, it serves to convert goals, which can be large and seemingly abstract,
into manageable pieces for easier implementation. In our first module, we reference the IDP
resources provided by the University of Wisconsin. They recommend a four-step process in goal setting: 1.) Identify the objective or skill to be
learned 2.) Select appropriate approaches and strategies 3.) Set a timeframe for when you start and
finish 4.) Identify clear outcomes or ways to demonstrate
what you have learned So here is our example: 1.) Hunter’s objective or skill to be learned:
communicating clearly and openly. 2.) Approaches and strategies: Hunter learns
that his institution’s office of postdoctoral affairs offers a seminar on management, which includes a section on communication, so he
decides to sign up for it. In this course, he learns that that good managers clearly
communicate expectations and deadlines for projects. Hunter
decides he would like to assess how well he communicates expectations and deadlines by asking his undergraduate supervisee to write
a short summary of what was discussed during the meeting, what the next steps are, and
what the deadlines are for getting those done.
Hunter does the same, and they will both send them to his supervisor, who will help Hunter
asses if both he and the undergraduate have the
same expectations. 3.) Timeframe: Hunter, his supervisor, and
the undergraduate agree that they will submit the short summaries of their meetings together
for the next three months. 4.) Outcome: By the end of the three months,
Hunter will be able to demonstrate how clearly he communicates expectations, and if need
be improvement in his ability during the three
month period. Setting goals and milestones is an important
step in the IDP process, and some goals may be simple to identify and break down, and
others – like our example of communication – can
be more difficult. Hunter realizes that one approach may not work for all the learning
goals he has identified in his IDP process. Other places
where Hunter may find resources for career and skill development include the National
Postdoc Association, his university’s postdoc office
and/or career center, and his disciplinary association.

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