Professional Development Blog
6 Answers to Know Before Making Your IDP, and then some.

6 Answers to Know Before Making Your IDP, and then some.

Have you ever developed an Individual Development Plan? Do you know what to include, who to talk to or when to have it on hand?

Last week, GovLoop and Young Government Leaders hosted a NextGen Online Training on “Making Your Individual Development Plan (IDP)”. With lessons, tips and thoughts from Terry Hill, the Work/Life and Engagement Advocate at DHS’s Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer, Ginny Hill, Program Manager at NIH (& President of Young Government Leaders), and Steve Ressler, Founder & President of GovLoop, we found the following answers to be of assistance when developing your IDP.

#1 – WHAT is an IDP?

– An Individual Development Plan is a document you develop with your supervisor to map out your training and development goals. It can hold all plans, or some plans, and can be a great asset for your career development when used properly.

#2 – WHY should you have an IDP?

– It’s important to develop skills and improve your mastery of those skills. You should always be working toward mastery, even though it may never be achieved.

– You should be setting goals and creating a plan to achieve those goals. This way you know what you’re going after and how to get there.

– You should record your accomplishments for future measurement and growth. By knowing how you got to a certain goal, you can better assess how to get to the next goal.

– An IDP can be used to open the door of communicating your development plan with your supervisor.

– Feel free to make the IDP a personal roadmap. After all, as they say, you are the steward of your own career.

#3 – WHO should have an IDP?

– Anyone and everyone. If you’d like to develop your career, you should have an IDP to map out your growth, record your progress and guide your goals.

#4 – WHAT should be in an IDP?

– Make sure it’s tailored to you. Don’t take suggestions if it doesn’t fit your desires and needs.

– Look at what competencies you currently have and what competencies you need for future positions. Include training that will allow you to obtain a competency you need. Be sure your courses are linked to skill gaps.

– Set SMART goals. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely)

– Identify what training or certificates you need. Seek those out and attend those sessions.

– Do you have the ability to rotate, shadow or detail within the agency? Ask your supervisor, look into open opportunities and set a plan of action.

– Notate your thought interviews. Record who you met with and who you’d like to meet with. You can take a strategic approach to who you are meeting with and what you’d like to get out of it.

– Sign up to listserves and get an idea of what is out in the community and offered. You can add an appendix that includes articles or books you’d like to read, people you’d like to meet or new ideas you’d like to explore.

#5 – WHERE is the best place to have your IDP on hand?

– When you meet with your mentor. Gain advice and guidance on fulfilling your IDP.

– When you meet with your supervisor. Make sure current expectations are aligned. This will also show them that you are a motivated high achiever.

– Bring it with you to information interviews and allow people to see your plans for your future development.

– In some ways, your IDP provides a view of where you are heading, where as your resume allows people to see where you have been.

#6 – WHEN should you update your IDP?

– You should review your IDP once a month, update it with articles, conversations and training notes.

– If your IDP doesn’t seem to be working, take the time to change it. It’s never too late.


– Explore online classrooms & courses

– Minimize tuition costs and invest in the best

– Find local training to avoid travel costs

– Join your professional association and find courses they offer; utilize what is already available to you.

– Ask peers and colleagues within your agency what they are doing for training. Seek out the high achievers.

– Make sure your IDP aligns with the mission of your office. Position your IDP to make it about them.

– Sign up for the Next Generation of Government Training Summit. It has several different training options specifically tailored to Gen X & Gen Y government employees eager to enhance their career, re-motivate their colleagues and lead from their level. 

Key Questions from the Audience:

What’s the difference between a Mentor and a Sponsor; and how do you go about finding one?

Mentors can help guide you through your career and can be from any office, sector or position. They can be found through mentor programs, or by being asked through other conversations and meetings. A sponsor is someone who is advocating for you because you are integral to his or her success and can only be found within your organization. A sponsor will come along after much hard work, dedication and diligence that has proven to him or her that you are a hard worker and deserving of all a sponsor can provide to you (i.e. promotion, raise, certification training, etc).

When participating in a course, is it worth the added cost for the certificate?

The answer varies. Agencies will pay for certifications if it is valuable to the organization. However, you may have to sign an agreement in order to move forward with their payment and your commitment to the organization. Be sure to link the certificate back to the organization and how it will be applied to make the organization stronger. Even if your agency won’t pay for the entire course; they may pay for a course here or there to obtain the degree overall. And, it is possible to get a certificate over time, course by course, through your agency by asking when money is available…it just may take time.

What’s an Informational Interview and how do you get one?

An informational interview is just as it sounds, an interview meant only to gain more information from someone about themselves, their career or the organization. You can use them as a tool to get to know your organization and the people in it better. The interview is just to get information – nothing else. No other incentive there except getting more information. Get to know the leaders, organization and how people do things — people like to talk about themselves. All your asking for is their time nothing else. So, get to asking!

How do I implement long-term goals vs short-term goals in your IDP?

It’s better to focus mainly on short-term goals, as they are the most rewarding for the agency. Unless, of course, your true plan is to be at your agency long term. If you don’t plan on being there long-term, and you’d like to begin honing those skills, keep your cards close-to-the-vest and just hint at the future skills you’d like to enhance without going into details of where you see your future.

What if IDP’s are frowned upon or looked at as threatening? How do I have an IDP under the radar?

That’s unfortunate! However, just think of your IDP as a to-do list for your training. Utilize it for yourself and your future and plan it out knowing you won’t get internal support to track your IDP. Maybe through time, someone will notice your enhancements in your skills and work that will allow for an open conversation. Make sure your supervisors see it as enhancing their time too.

Is it possible to do a mentorship long distance?

Mentorships – you only get what you put into it regardless of where you are. Distance shouldn’t make the difference. With video calls, you can still speak face-to-face without being in the same physical space. Take advantage of your mentorships regardless of the medium you connect.

Could I take a course out of my reach, like a management course without being a manager?

There is a difference between leadership and management, but not much. It’s always a great idea to learn how to be a good manager before becoming one. Look into supervisory skill courses or leadership courses that you can apply to being a manager when that day comes. You can also look into self-awareness courses like Strength Finder, Myers Briggs and get to know yourself.

Miss the online training? Check out the archive

Do you have any other IDP Tips, Answers or Lessons to add?