College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Getting Started: Career Exploration Tools and Individual Development Plans

While we encourage you to explore these assessments and tools yourself, we understand that these tools are often most impactful when utilized with a career professional to assist in fully exploring the results and resources available. During the spring 2018 semester we will be holding a number of workshops around the ImaginePhD Career Planning and Exploration tool for Humanities and Social Science PhD students. These workshops are open to both Masters and PhD students. Students in the Arts and Natural Sciences are also welcome. We will also be holding open lab hours where users of the tool can come speak with career professionals in a less structured and casual setting. Please check back to this page for the spring 2018 workshops and lab schedule or check the Grad Student Calendar.

Students in the Natural Sciences are also welcome to attend ASCEND, our professional development and career preparation series for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the natural and biomedical sciences. Please check the graduate student calendar for the dates of these workshops. 

What is a career exploration tool?

Generally, these are tools or programs that are designed to help you determine your career-related skills, interests and values and provide insight into career paths you might be interested in based on your assessments.

How are these tools helpful?

Career Exploration Tools designed specifically for graduate students are useful not only because these tools can help to assess what career paths are a good fit for you in terms of your interests, skills, and values but, more importantly, because they present a range careers possibilities that are appropriate to your area of expertise or discipline. Combining career assessment tools with an IDP or an individual development plan during your graduate career can help you assess areas of needed skills development towards specific career paths, keep you on track with your writing and academic development, and assist you with time and project management.

Individual Development Plans (IDPs) are useful tools for every graduate student regardless of discipline or where you are in your career.

What is an IDP?

An Individual Development Plan is a tool to assist you in your personal, professional, and career development. IDPs often help you build goals and milestones towards development within your career, professional life, or personal life. These can be short-term plans of 1-3 years or longer term plans of 5-10 years.

Why should I have an IDP?

The primary purpose of an IDP is to develop your short-term and long-term goals and to keep you on track to accomplish your goals. These goals can include milestones and goals towards the completion of your degree program (academic goals), presenting your research at academic conferences and publishing articles (scholarly goals), and teaching and skills development (career goals).

How do I create my IDP?

While you can create your own individual development plan using a number of online templates, there are online tools specifically developed for graduate students that integrate career exploration tools and resources with individual development plans in order for students to explore the various career paths they might be interested in both within and beyond the academy and develop their own plan to reach their career goals. 

For graduate students in the humanities, social sciencesand some departments within the School of the Arts such as Theatre, Film & Media Studiesand Visual Art Education we recommend ImaginePhD, developed by the Graduate Career Consortium (GCC) and funded by Universities across the US and Canada. A robust career exploration and planning tool, ImaginePhD is now available at If you are interested in using this tool, please contact to learn more about upcoming user workshops and events. 


For graduate students in the school of the arts, we are currently working on a individual development plan and career exploration resources. Until then, we would recommend visual arts students explore The Art Career Project, the Visual Arts Career Resources page on the Visual Arts department website, and the Career Center's page on careers in the visual arts. For students in the theatre department we recommend the Theatre Department's career resources page, and the Career Center's page on careers in theatre and the performing arts. 

For graduate students in the natural sciences and math, we recommend Science Careers​ MyIDP, developed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). To start your MyIDP click here. 

About MyIDP: Science Careers offers a wide variety of content designed to assist scientists of all disciplines, backgrounds and experience levels navigate their career path. This includes thousands of job listings that are updated daily, thousands of career advice articles written by the ScienceCareers editorial staff, graduate program information, meetings and event information, and a Career Forum where scientists can join a community of experts and peers engaging in real time discussions around career issues. 

To learn about how an IDP can enhance your research training experience and how it can be helpful throughout your graduate student career, our colleagues at UCSF have developed a quick video overview.

To better understand how an IDP can help you chart a course to career success in career paths beyond the academy, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) has a great webinar available here

To learn more about how to start your IDP and best utilize the tool, please watch the three-part series also developed by our colleagues at UCSF:

Part 1: Find your career fit using the myIDP interests, skills, and values self-assessments

Part 2: Explore the science careers and resources in myIDP

Part 3: Set goals for career success using myIDP

For graduate students in chemistry, we would also recommend ChemIDP, developed by the American Chemical Society.