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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Dec. 16, 2020

New: Individual Development Plans help plan your career

By Janki Patel

Careers are very personal. That’s why the Coast Guard has released a great new tool to help civilians and military members clarify where they want to go – and how they’ll get there.

Think of the Individual Development Plan (IDP) as a blueprint. As you fill in each section, you create a step-by-step guide to building your own career.Megan Atkinson pins a rank insignia Dec. 12, 2020, on Petty Officer 2nd Class Trevor Atkinson of Winter Haven, Florida, during a virtual meritorious advancement ceremony at Coast Guard Port Security Unit 307 in Clearwater, Florida. Atkinson, is a tactical boat crewman at PSU 307 and became the second Coast Guard reservist to be meritoriously advanced under a new program established by the commandant in March 2020. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Lt. Glenn Sanchez

“An IDP is a valuable tool that helps us maximize our effectiveness and provides a functional method of identifying goals a plan to accomplish them,” said Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Jason M. Vanderhaden. “Personal and professional growth is far more likely to happen when we have an IDP for guidance and better decision making.” 

Where are you now in your career and your personal life, and where do you want to go? How are your short-term goals different than your long-term goals? What happens when you take into account your financial goals? Now, what kinds of education, training and experience do you need to acquire? 

The new IDP is written in a conversational tone, making it easy to use. It walks you through all the Big Picture questions that often get overlooked during annual reviews, OERs and EERs.

IDPs are mandatory for first-term enlisted members and junior officers (both active duty and reserve), who have been assigned to a permanent duty station. But it’s a useful tool for everyone – either to plan your own next steps, or to give you the framework to help your employees.

The old IDP clocked in at a daunting 19 pages. The new one was built from the ground up, with the idea that career planning needs to be holistic. The Office of Leadership (CG-128) and the Leadership Development Center spent two years talking with members and civilians to find out exactly what they wanted.

“The IDP empowers civilian employees to chart their career course and reach their own desired level of professional development by documenting concrete actions needed to achieve their goals, said Audra L. Hearrell, the program manager for FORCECOM's Civilian Career Management Team. “Advantages include identifying training gaps, which can justify sponsorship and funding of specific training, as well as garnering support for participation in details or the soon-to-be launched Rotational Assignment Program for Civilians.” 

“Employee goals are further legitimized when it can be documented how that training or opportunity fulfills a Coast Guard organizational need,” added Hearrell.

The IDP is like having a blueprint for your life. Be sure to keep it updated as you advance in your professional career.