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Individual Development Plans (IDPs) – The Key to A Successful Career

Individual Development Plans (or IDPs) are a critical piece of an employee’s career path. They are extremely beneficial in that they serve as a roadmap for career progression. Many organizations, to include the Federal Government, are making these a mandatory part of an employee’s overall performance plan. IDPs house anticipated training opportunities, goals, objectives and more; a personal career platform, employees have the ability to make it a sound projection. In addition, IDPs allow supervisors and managers to determine career expectations and provide supporting mentoring and/or coaching advice, as needed. IDPs are considered a partnership between the organization, the manager and the employee; expectations are provided, in writing, and goals and objectives are discussed and understood. Finally, IDPs candidly provide a strength and weakness assessment for individuals that are perhaps unsure of their career path and progression; they can then easily use the IDP to stay on track, develop and enhance skills, or acquire new ones.

Supervisors should encourage employees to develop IDPs, which leads to a thorough understanding of goals, needs, weaknesses, strengths, etc. It fosters motivation and encourages employees to take ownership and accountability of their careers. IDPs also serve as a talking point for managers and employees when reviewing skills, knowledge and abilities needed in order to perform particular work roles. Benefits of IDPs, overall, are vast; they enable identification and tracking of needs, goals, abilities and plans; they assist in the development of an organization’s training and manpower requirements; and they serve as the pillar in which an organization’s mission, goals and objectives are performed.

Managers and team leads, etc., can assess their skills and resources needed to perform particular tasks, missions and goals. The IDP serves many purposes as a resource tool; it can be used for hiring justifications to showcase the need for particular skills within the organization; it can be used for performance discussions with the employee; and it can serve as documentation in capturing milestones, achievements and benefits for both the employee and the organization.

Even though IDPs are not necessarily mandatory in all organizations, they are a critical and worthwhile tool for employees. Managers must do their due diligence with encouraging employees to take part in the opportunity; the value must be conveyed in addition to the myriad of opportunities for the employee.

IDPs don’t have to be formal; they can simply be crafted on a blank sheet of paper or email and discussed with the employee and their supervisor; the IDP, however, should serve as a living document so that employees can update as organizational goals and personal needs, change. At the minimum, an employee’s name, org, title and paygrade should be included along with short term and long term career goals. Dates should be included as milestone points throughout the IDP and linked to organizational objectives. Inclusion of training and personal development opportunities to include conferences, seminars, coursework, assignments, etc., are key; this roadmap should then be signed and dated by employee and supervisor. A complete set IDP planning forms and self assessment worksheets are available online that you can use in conjunction with any required employer program.

The IDP is your friend, it is a resource tool, a guideline and an opportunity for professional growth and development. For more information and assistance with taking part in an IDP process, visit www.fedcareerinfo.com. This site offers handouts, free downloadable forms and worksheets, IDP workbooks, presentations and personal discussion opportunities.

IDP & Career Planning Tools


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About The Author

Dr. Donna Day is a Manager at the Department of Defense, where she has been for more than 30 years. With a background in Information Assurance, Customer Engagement and Marketing, more recently she has been studying Cyber security Policy and Management at the University of Maryland, University College (UMUC). She earned her Doctor of Management, Master of Business Administration, and Master of Science Degree in Technology Management at UMUC and received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Marketing at the University of Baltimore. Dr. Day is also an Adjunct Professor at Norwich University in Vermont, where she teaches Cyber security, Critical Infrastructure and Information Assurance courses to a myriad of students, worldwide, from across the intelligence community. A published author, Baltimore Ravens fan, and life-long learner, she enjoys writing, traveling, cooking, and most importantly, spending time with her family and friends.