Individual Development Plans (IDPs)

There are so many wonderful options after graduate school, but how do you prepare for your career as a graduate student? Whether your plan is academia or industry (or maybe you don't know yet and that's okay too), below are some resources and tips for preparing for your next step.

It is never too early or too late to develop an individual development plan (IDP) in your graduate studies. This should be reevaluated on a yearly basis with yourself as well as with your faculty member/advisor.

Ask your graduate program if they have one specific to their department. If not, then start with or one of the resources below.

IDPs should:

  • Help you identify your needs and goals
  • Provide an exercise to help you investigate your skills, interests and values for your current and future career
  • Set professional career goals and keep you on track

Connect with Career Services and Other Offices on Campus

  • Connect with the Career Services Office and register for an online job search engine (ex. Handshake)
  • Create a LinkedIn account and connect with alumni and faculty from your home institution... don't forget to connect with your career services folks too!
  • Connect with alumni in your network through ALUMNIFIRE

  • If you are working on research that is really novel, it is possible to patent your new idea! Be sure to reach out to the patent office at your university with any questions. If you are interested in commercializing or selling your product or starting your own company, then Entrepreneurship might be a career avenue for you! Google whether your university has a entrepreneurship person, office, unit, or center that you can work with to develop your ideas!

Learn more about different careers

Learn more about non-academic careers:

  • Look into Preparing Future Faculty programs for academic careers
  • Find Preparing Future Professionals programs for industry careers
  • Get involved with "Accelerate to Industry" (not all school participate) and/or if you are interested in entrepreneurship find a NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) team or hub near you!
Academic Track Careers:

If you are interested in looking at careers in research and academia, then learn more about postdoctoral positions (how you can apply, application cycles for competitive national Postdoc positions, and where they can take you). Not all disciplines and sub disciplines require or recommend a postdoctoral training position before starting a faculty position. In some cases, it depends on the type of academic institution you are applying to. This is a good conversation to have with your mentor and other faculty in your graduate program/discipline to understand the expectations in the field. Find a list of postdoctoral positions and future faculty workshops that can help you chart your next step.

If you identify as a Native American graduate student, then you can apply for a future faculty mentoring program called AISES Lighting the Pathway Program.

Industry Careers:

Interested in Industry? You can apply the the GEM fellowship if you have more than 1 year left remaining in your graduate studies. This opportunity provides a paid internship during the summer. Before you apply, please check with your PI about the summer internship!

Many companies sometimes have graduate internship programs and industry postdocs. Inquire within your field.

Not sure of your next career step? Informational Interviews and Internships

If you are considering multiple different avenues as your next step, then take some time to informational interview people who have jobs that you think you might want. It is never too early to start this process! Define your values and ask them about their position: what do they do day to day? What is their work-life balance? What is their favorite/least favorite part of their position?

Make an excel document and keep track of these informational interviews (and your thoughts after talking with them) so that you can make an informed decision later in your graduate studies.

You can also learn more about industry through graduate level internships. Talk with your faculty advisor to see if they are open to you interning over the summer at a company.

Consider using the following helpful websites as well: