The past four weeks at Roompact have been a whirlwind. I started with new employee onboarding, have gotten to know the rest of the team, and am even getting settled into working on my own projects. With my beginner’s anxiety starting to dissipate, I return to the question, “What am I hoping to get out of this internship?”
During the internship application process, it’s easy to focus on getting the job – what do you do when you finally have it? After several one-on-one meetings with my supervisor, I came to find that my professional intentions for the summer were not as solidified as I first thought. I was completing assignments and receiving good feedback, but I didn’t feel like I was developing skills pertinent to my future career, though I hadn’t clearly communicated what I wanted that to be. To help organize these thoughts and make the most of the coming weeks, I needed a way to set clear expectations for myself and my supervisor.
One way to communicate these expectations is through an Individual Development Plan or IDP. IDPs are a great way to assess your current skills and establish specific objectives for your career development. This IDP Guide published by Yale University is an excellent resource for those new to Individual Development Plans.
As the Yale Guide suggests, IDPs can be divided into five stages, each marked by a distinct action.
The first stage of the IDP focuses on identifying one’s hopes and goals for professional involvement. As an intern, it can be overwhelming coming into a new field or position – there is so much to learn! One wants to succeed, but in order to do so, one must have a plan. This stage of the IDP helps organize those thoughts and aspirations from the abstract to the explicit.
Here are some questions you might answer to help identify your professional objectives:
- What type of job am I hoping to have in this field?
- What characteristics or duties are associated with that position? How might my current experiences prepare me to act in that capacity?
- What makes me feel motivated? How might these motivations align with my current and desired position?
The second stage of the IDP requires one to determine their strengths and areas for development. In this step, it is important to reflect on the personal and professional experiences that have shaped an individual up until this point. During this stage of reflection, I spent time ruminating on inherent strengths and characteristics that I see as a benefit in the workplace, as well as skills that I may have already developed earlier in my professional career. This brainstorm will serve as the foundation for a future professional development conversation between supervisor and supervisee.
Here are a few questions to spark your reflection:
- What distinguishes you from others as an employee?
- What skills would you like to hone in on during this experience? Are there any you are looking to add to your repertoire?
- Are there any formal career assessments that you have completed historically? What did these assessments tell you?
The third stage of the IDP encourages one to plan their short and long term goals within their current position. This is a time to develop a connection between one’s aspirations and the steps that will lead to their completion. A good method to develop these ideas is to make SMART Goals. SMART Goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timebound.
The fourth stage of the IDP asks that the individual meet with their supervisor to discuss their IDP. The first three steps of the IDP will serve as the foundation for your IDP chat. This conversation should be a shared dialogue initiated by the individual creating the IDP, though the achievement of SMART Goals cannot be easily accomplished without supervisor support and mentorship.
The final stage of the IDP instructs one to act on the goals and objectives they have set through the development of their IDP. Remember, IDPs should function as a living document and should be updated regularly as targets change and goals are completed.
Creating an IDP is an excellent way to get to know an intern’s introductory skills and learn their career aspirations. While an IDP provides a formalized plan to accomplish one’s goals and hone in on one’s expertise, the relationship between a supervisor and supervisee is integral to hold one another accountable to achieve these goals.
Now that I have completed my IDP, I feel more confident to ask for and take on new responsibilities within my internship. Having communicated and discussed my career objectives with my supervisor, I know that there is support for my growth and development. I would recommend that all interns create an IDP to function as a foundation for their career growth and professional development conversations.