myIDP - a test run and quick evaluation

Sep 06 2012 Published by under academia

Today while I was playing on the internet I ran across myIDP, an online career development tool at Science Careers. You can find the article explaining the rational behind myIDP here. According to the myIDP website:

An individual development plan (IDP) helps you explore career possibilities and set goals to follow the career path that fits you best.

I encourage my trainees to come up with an IDP, and I work with them on this. I think it is useful to consider what options there are, but also to make sure that you are engaging in the career development activities necessary to advance professionally. I did not intentionally make an IDP myself (I had never heard of it when I was a postdoc, TBH), though writing my K99 application certainly made me think explicitly about career development and what I was doing to make up for deficiencies (real and perceived).

I decided to give myIDP a test drive to see how it worked.

This schematic from the myIDP website shows the general methodology

First, I filled out the assessments, trying to be brutally honest. IMO this is important if you want a IDP that is worthwhile. There are three lists of questions (skill, values, interests). Then you get a list of career options with "scores" of how well your skills, values, and interests match up. So how well does it work? Well...kinda?

my top five "matches"

In what may be a horrible sign of things to come, tenure-track research PI was not even in the top 15*!! Research admin was #7 (blech!), Research staff was #12, and Industry research was #13. But I actually like my job, and think I'm pretty decent at it. I guess I don't give myIDP high scores in prediction FWIW. I can tell you for SURE I would suck at "public health related careers" and technical support (I really don't have the patience OR technical knowledge). And SALES?! FFS HELL NO. ahem.

To summarize, I think that any IDP has to be, well, more personal. I am not sure that the question sets are really thorough enough to actually start sending someone down one career path or another. But they are a great starting point. It doesn't take that long, and might be useful. I think postdocs should try it out. But then also work with your PI to develop a real, actionable IDP for yourself.


*for all I know, this isn't even an option. But if it is then how in the hell is in not in my wheelhouse??!!!


24 responses so far

  • Alyssa says:

    I've never heard of an IDP - what a great exercise for students, post-docs, and anyone really to go through. Thanks for sharing!

  • Annika says:

    PI is a choice (tho not exactly by that name). My 5, 6 and 13 were "Combined research and teaching career," "Research staff in a research intensive institution," and "Principle investigator in a research intensive institution." All of which seem PI-like to me.

  • Hahahaaaa ... seems some of my top 5 were also in yours (see below). Pretty much what I had expected, except for #5 ... sales is not my thing, at all.

    1. Science writing: Science, medical, or technical writer or journalist; science editor; science publisher

    2. Science policy: Public affairs/government affairs staff at scientific societies, foundations, government entities, or think tanks

    3. Science education for non-scientists: Education or public outreach specialist such as at a science museum or scientific society

    4. Combined research and teaching career: Faculty in a research university, liberal arts college, community college with major teaching responsibilities

    5. Sales and marketing of science-related products: Medical science liaison; technical sales representative; marketing specialist

  • Oh, and the following were further down the list ...

    11. Principal investigator in a research-intensive institution: Independent researcher at a medical school, private research institute, government lab or university with minimal teaching responsibilities (skills match: 86%; interests match: 70%)

    16. Research staff in a research-intensive institution: Staff scientist or researcher in academia or government, lab manager, director of a multi-user research facility in an academic institution (skills match: 90%; interests match: 62%

  • gerty-z says:

    Seriously. I am a little shocked that it didn't show up for me. I wonder what answers I gave that nixed it off my list?

  • Couldn't tell you ... but I indicated that I hated grant writing ... twice ... and those careers still made the list. Inconceivable!

  • physioprof says:

    This thing is 100% useless, because the issue for people who still don't know what career they are suited for is that they are exactly the people who don't know how good they are at all those different skills they ask you to assess yourself on.

  • minion says:

    You can click on the percentage breakdown for each, to see how your answers compare with the "expert ratings". I rated grant proposals, manuscript writing & budgeting as low as possible. These were my top five:

    1. Research in industry: Discovery or preclinical researcher; manager of a research team or facility.
    2. Research staff in a research-intensive institution: Researcher in academia or government, lab manager, director of a multi-user research facility in an academic institution
    3. Principal investigator in a research-intensive institution: Independent researcher at a medical school, private research institute, government lab or university with minimal teaching responsibilities.
    4. Combined research and teaching career: Faculty in a research university, liberal arts college, community college with major teaching responsibilities.
    5. Clinical research management: Clinical research project/trials manager or coordinato

  • Hermitage says:

    My self-esteem is too low for such an assessment, the website would just implode from trying to calculate my sheer incompetence.

  • becca says:

    I wonder how many science education for non-scientist positions there really are? Cause that's my top match, and for all I know I might enjoy it.

    Then I got:
    2) Science Policy (tempting in a way)
    3) Sales of Scientific stuff (actually might be fun if it's technical enough, but probably EWW)
    4) Combined Research/Teaching (makes sense, but I need more experience teaching to have any idea whether I could swing it)
    5) Public Health Related careers (some interest in that)
    6) Research staff (this would probably work)
    7) Tech support (EW!)
    8) Scientist in Industry
    19) PI in research intensive place
    Scientist in Industry is the thing I have the highest interest/skills discrepancy (i.e. highly interesting, leas skilled for). Maybe that's a sign of the weakness of my training for that direction, or maybe a personal failing. PI at research intensive place has lower interest, but a similar gap. I do wonder whether there's a way to account for career stage- I feel like I'm not quite ready to be setting large research agendas yet, but that doesn't mean I won't want that at some other point and/or get bored with carrying out other people's agenda.

  • BiochemBeeOtch says:

    I think most of the commenters, including the author of the article, have missed the main point of myIDP and are too myopically focused on the career 'predictor'. Obviously, this predictor is a rough evaluation of what your career preference should be. There's the disclaimer on the website to this effect.

    The main benefit of the myIDP website is that it gives the student or postdoc a systematic method of self-assessment, which was heretofore lacking. Some of the comments above belay a complete lack of understanding of how powerful self-assessment can be. (Honestly, physioprof? You think people who haven't made a career choice can't assess their own skills or desires? Wow.)

    Moreover, the fact that there is a place for you log your goals and deadlines is extremely powerful. I think that getting email updates to remind you of the self-set deadlines is especially helpful to prevent goals from being unmet.

  • Jim Austin says:

    becca (and everyone else),

    You are hereby urged (by me) not to take the ordering of the list too seriously. This is not one of those competency tests that used to be given in high school (are they still?) to decide whether you ought to be a dog catcher or a Congressman.

    Here's the thing: The list has to be in SOME order, right? We didn't want to lead with the most obvious--"PI"--because we didn't want to send the message that it was somehow central or special. Alphabetical was just arbitrary in a different way, and would always preference one career (Business of Science) over another (Teaching-Intensive would be last on an alphabetical list.) Random order--different every time--has other shortcomings.

    So why not generate a list whose order is determined, via a simple algorithm, by answers to the skills/interests quiz?

    It was never intended to be definitive. Truly, the order doesn't matter much--it's really just a list to choose from--but there needed to be some order, so we chose this approach.

    We did the best we could to make that ordering algorithm work well, but don't take it too seriously. The main thing (for those who are still considering their career options) is to choose a plan A and a plan B and start working, using myIDP as a focal point. If you haven't learned it already, you'll soon learn that myIDP is nothing more than a tool to help people focus and plan. The hard work and tough decisions are up to the individual scientist.

    I learned years ago not to engage physioprof in mature conversation, but I'll respond to his comment. myIDP may be especially useful for people who don't know the answers to those questions because it shows them that they need to go figure out the answers. It's all about encouraging introspection.

    Thanks all.

    Jim Austin, Editor
    Science Careers

  • gerty-z says:

    Jim, thanks for stopping by.

    I certainly didn't mean for the discussion to get too focused on the order of the list...but I did find it amusing that PI wasn't near the top for me (since that is what I do). The goal of this post was to spread the word about myIDP. I think that it could be useful to kick-start folks into thinking seriously about their career plan (options A, B, C, D, etc...) and what they need to do in order to implement those plans successfully. The list inspection was, IMO, a fun side trip. That said, this tool isn't for me.

    FTR, I DO believe that IDP are important for graduate students and postdocs as they are planning their career development. But I think that these should be done with input from advisors and mentors. Self assessment is good but you need to know if your assessment of your skills matches up with the people you work with. I think that it is hard for trainees to accurately assess themselves in some areas.

    • Jim Austin says:

      Thanks, gerty-z. I certainly didn't take offense. I (we) very much appreciate the attention. But I'm sure you'll agree that it's also important for folks not to get the wrong idea about the purpose of the tool. So I thought I'd jump in.

      As for the involvement of advisers and mentors, I have a couple of thoughts. First, note that the original FASEB plan called for the IDP to be carried out with a mentor. We continue to believe that's an excellent idea--but to require that in the app was impractical and would limit access. We still encourage people to work through it with mentors and advisers, and we hope it will be adopted widely by institutions that REQUIRE mentor involvement. We're ready to modify the app a needed.

      Final point: I'm sure you'll agree that since advisers often have split attention and limited experience away from academia, trainees need to take responsibility for their own career development. It's too much to expect a physics prof to tell his or her student/postdoc all about science policy careers.

      Thanks again for the post.


  • DJMH says:

    Probably Mettler Toledo pays Science for every time "Sales" comes up on the list, and Roche pays for every time "Industry" comes up, and a passel of dimwitted Invitrogen outposts pays for "tech support"....

  • BiochemBeeOtch says:

    Wow. Most of the people commenting on this blog are an absolute embarrassment to the scientific enterprise.

    I'm looking at you DJMH and physioprof...

    • gerty-z says:

      you are delusional. i think a healthy dose of skepticism is certainly NOT an embarrassment to the scientific enterprise.

      • BiochemBeeOtch says:

        DJMH makes the blind assertion that Science is getting kickbacks from the results of website. Is this what you call "healthy skepticism"? If so, you are the delusional one.

        Physioprof asserts that the tool is "100% useless", based on his assertion that folks who have not chosen a career path are somehow incapable of self-assessment. Is this healthy skepticism?

        Please, defend these trolls some more. It really makes you look great...

      • Jim Austin says:

        OK, well if you think there's anything "healthy" about this kind of conspiracy theory (global warming being, after all, a UN power grab, or whatever), I'll provide some details on finance. This project was funded with a small grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund--a longtime supporter of Science Careers--to UCSF. In this case, AAAS was a subcontractor. I'm not privy to the details of the grant, but in general BWF does not pay overhead, which means that all the organizations involved are contributing to the development cost. I also am not privy to the budget of our IT department, but based on conversations I've had, I'm pretty sure their actual development costs exceeded the size of the subcontract.

        Of course the charge of "kickbacks" is absurd. Think birthers. think global-warming denialists. Think black helicopters. This is not skepticism; it's utter B.S. And I'm quite sure these two would never subject themselves to the humiliation of saying such things were their identities not well-protected.

        On the contrary, while most Science Careers sites are ad-supported, we decided to keep myIDP free of this distraction. There is no revenue. No business model. Not a penny of my time has ever been charged to the myIDP grant. Every minute I have spent on myIDP is either my own time or from my AAAS-supported salary. My IDP is a community service.


        • BiochemBeeOtch says:

          Thanks Jim! Well said.

          And thanks for myIDP. What a great service and resource! I will make sure to make my grad students and postdocs use it...

  • [...] of the myIDP tool in the blogging world by an early career researcher who gave the site “a test run and quick evaluation.” However, the individual’s opinions are quite unfair and highlight how not to use the tool. [...]

  • I have been waiting anxiously for this tool to roll out, and it is an impressive amount of work by the myIDP project team! The most important point to keep in mind is that postdocs (and just postgraduates at any level) have no idea what an individual development plan is...let alone how to use it. The myIDP tools will be a great starting point for this population of science professionals to help them actually take control of the direction of their own career paths, especially when a primary career mentor is not available. I applaud Science Careers and the whole myIDP project team for caring so much about the personal career development of young scientists!

    (On a side note, I think this blog post could be renamed, "How Not to Use the myIDP Tool." If anyone is interested in a fair assessment of the tool then please see my latest blog post:

    • gerty-z says:

      Donna, your reading comprehension leaves a little to be desired. I mentor young scientists and work a lot with them to identify possible career paths and figure out what they need to do to get it done. I'm not in sales or marketing, so I have no interest in whether people use this IDP tool or something else. I wrote this post to let the folks that come by here know that myIDP exists. And because I'm the curious type I took a couple of minutes and went through the assessments. I don't know how the scores are derived. Honestly, I don't care that much. I don't think that it is better than the assessments that I do with my grad students and postdocs. But maybe some people would find it useful.

      • Kudos to you for actually spending the time with your grad students and postdocs and sharing career development information with them! In my field, this relationship with an advisor is not the norm, and that's why I think the myIDP is such an important tool to share, especially with those that would never know about developing a career plan. (I believe you also touched upon that fact that you were not aware of an IDP as a postdoc.) I wish I had worked with an advisor like you that actually discusses the bigger career picture!

        I did not mean to offend you, as it is great that you are promoting this information. In my opinion, I feel that people may get discouraged if they read into your post what I did about the tool not being in-depth enough and that the career path results were not accurate (and I assure you my reading comprehension skills are quite adequate.) myIDP also has a section for the follow-up plan to meet with a mentor to review the IDP, so the tool is not promoting a solitary process but one of working with a mentor or team of mentors. The disappointing problem is that many do not have a mentor that cares to discuss such career information. If you ever have time, I would love to learn more about career development resources that you share with your advisees....

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