I have found the process of writing an Individual Development Plan to be a useful tool in career planning and development, especially to have meaningful conversations with new supervisors on their position needs and my core strengths in a team setting.
Below is my advice that I have shared with other emerging leaders in government on creating and revamping their individual development plans.
Set a development plan within the first 90 days and update it regularly, especially before mid-year and annual performance reviews. Think about your shot-term career goals (1-2 years) and how it aligns to agency position needs and priorities. Then think about long-term career goals, such as your leadership development track.
Link career development goals to the agency’s mission priorities. IDPs should be separate from the performance review process, but it can be used as a strategic tool to have a conversation with your supervisor in the beginning of starting a new position or annually to discuss your core strengths, agency/division priorities, current position needs, and your long-term developmental needs. As a bonus, demonstrate in writing or verbally how the training and development opportunities have linked to your performance accomplishments for the year.
Be creative and thoughtful. Agencies want to invest in employees that care about the mission and make effort to add value to workplace challenges. With agency budget cuts and continuing resolutions, it is challenging for agencies to find adequate money to effectively train employee and supervisors, so be very creative and thoughtful about the process. Use your networks and social media for cost-effective meaningful opportunities to learn and grow.
Developmental activities are more than just a training course. Take on new assignments or projects. Serve on working groups internally or externally. Join a mentoring program or schedule a coffee chat. Shadow a respected executive for a day as their special assistant or senior advisor. Join groups that fit career interests and career track.
To find additional IDP resources or sample templates, OPM created a wiki page site for federal employees.
About the Author:
At Education, Lora coached and mentored many emerging government leaders on career development and setting goals during 2008-2010 before IDPs were a standard practice in federal government. At DHS in 2011, she tailored a standard Individual Development Plan template, linking development objectives to mission goals and core competencies. She also researched and mapped out a personal leadership track in government from the entry level to executive leadership. When a new employee to DHS, Lora used the IDP process as a strategic tool to have a conversation with her new supervisor on 1) core strengths and long-term career goals; 2) getting his input on the division’s position needs, mission priorities, and goals; and 3) then thinking outside of the box to find meaningful developmental opportunities internally and externally that were cost-effective. Training is not only attending a class or conference for one day – it is so much more than that.