Background: As greater career development support for doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers has been emphasized, the individual development plan (IDP) has become a recommended mentoring tool. However, little is known about the effect of IDPs on mentoring and career development. This study proposed two conceptual models to examine the interrelationships among the use of IDPs, mentoring support, and career preparedness with a diverse sample of doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers in the life sciences.
Methods: The data leveraged for this study was collected over a three-month period, March 2016 to June 2016, as part of a cross-sectional, online survey. The survey was distributed through social media and direct email to participants enrolled in life/biological/medical or physical/applied doctoral programs at U.S. institutions. To test the proposed conceptual models, this study employed the design-based multilevel structural equation modeling.
Results: The analytic sample comprised 660 doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers in the life sciences from 91 institutions. The results suggested that 1) using the IDP could enhance mentoring support and career preparedness of doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers; 2) greater mentoring support and career preparedness would motivate mentees to continue utilizing the IDP with their principal investigator (PI) or advisor; and 3) females, postdoctoral researchers, and international scholars might need more support throughout the mentoring and career development process.
Conclusions: This research demonstrated the empirical evidence an IDP has within mentorship and career preparedness, and that an IDP is an important career development tool that enhances trainees overall career preparation.