August 13, 2021


By Alex Harrington, Executive Director

You may have joined the government workforce by jumping at the first job offer, or perhaps in a happenstance moment where the job came to you. Maybe you were one of the few lucky ones with more than a handful of job offers, but you chose the one with the highest salary. Regardless of your path to the federal workforce, on the road ahead you will have to navigate future career choices, including setbacks and unexpected challenges.

If only we could be like Tiger Woods and experience a vocational calling as an infant. While watching his father hit golf balls into a net, Tiger imitated his father’s swing. At age two, he appeared on The Mike Douglas Show, putting with Bob Hope. By age three, Tiger shot 48 for nine holes. He appeared in Golf Digest at age five.

But most of us are not Tiger Woods.

So, we must ask ourselves “How do I plan and manage my career to navigate the many choices that I face in my work and personal life?”

The answer: The Individual Development Plan (IDP)

I recommend creating an IDP because it is one of the best career development tools to help you achieve your personal and professional goals. It will also help you and your supervisor set expectations for specific learning objectives and the core competencies tied to your position. In fact, an IDP is a written partnership between you and your supervisor.

Benefits of an IDP

The primary benefit of an IDP is that it helps you meet short- and long-term career goals. It can also support your decision-making. For example, if one of your long-term career goals is to become a Senior Executive in federal service, you would identify and take training courses focused on leadership development. An IDP can also help you use accurate, current, and unbiased career information. Finally, an IDP can help you master academic, occupational, and universal employability skills.

Components of an IDP

When creating your IDP, be sure to include the following components:

* Employee profile – your name, position title, office, grade/pay band.

* Career goals – outline short- and long-term goals with estimated and actual completion dates.

* Development objectives – identify performance objectives that link to your work unit's mission/goals/objectives and your development needs and objectives.

* Training and development opportunities – indicate activities that you will pursue. These activities may include formal classroom training, web-based training, rotational assignments, shadowing assignments, on-the-job training, self-study programs, and professional conferences/seminars.

* Signatures – these will help hold you and your supervisor accountable to the completion dates.

Integration of short-term and long-term performance/career goals

Integrate both your short-term (one year) performance/development goals that improve job performance with your long-term career goals to your next advancement (e.g., promotion, responsibility, etc.).

For example, a social media specialist’s short-term goal could be: During the first quarter of my performance plan, I will use visual content to increase the agency’s awareness in global markets.

An example of a long-term goal: Obtain a supervisory position in public affairs within three years.

Responsibilities of the IDP development process

Regardless of an agency’s policy on IDPs, you are RESPONSIBLE for your IDP. When drafting your IDP, base it on, at least in part, on learning and performance objectives established or recommended by your supervisor.

Also, remember to update your IDP annually. At the beginning of each performance year, your supervisor should work with you to create a performance plan. This is the best time to share your IDP and discuss not only how you will support the position’s performance requirements, but also your long-term career aspirations. The following diagram is a good example of the roles and responsibilities of the employee and supervisor when developing an IDP.

If you’re a supervisor:  help your employees identify training needs and suitable learning and development opportunities to include in their IDPs.

To learn more about how to create an IDP, check out the following resources:

OPM IDP Resources

* OPM Individual Development Plan

Other IDP Resources

* Using IDPs to Leverage Strengths

* Writing Effective IDP Goals

* Individual Development Plan Examples

* Understanding the IDP Process

* Individual Development Plan (With Template and Example)

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Alex Harrington
Chair & Executive Director
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