Individual Development Framework (IDF)

What is the IDF?

Developed by a diverse working group at McGill, the IDF (Individual Development Framework) is a framework of goal categories that will provide students with guidance on areas to focus on when creating their IDP (Individual Development Plan). Comprising 21 categories, the IDF is grouped into 7 themes: Lead Projects, Work with Others, Communicate Ideas, Solve Problems, Expand Your Expertise, Be Well, and Plan Your Career.

This framework has been adopted by SKILLSETS to help guide university-wide professional development programming for graduate students, and is now being used by a number of departments as a guide for population specific offerings. The IDF categories are used in myInvolvement, to help students find and track relevant professional development and training opportunities. It also serves as the foundation for all the tools and programming under development for myPath (a toolkit to help students create an IDP). Below is the executive summary that outlines the process used to develop the IDF.

Click here for a 1 page printable PDF of the Individual Development Framework.


Lead Projects

Beyond an ability to work well with other (see next), successfully leading projects requires strategic planning, behaving professional and ethically, as well as obtaining and managing project funds.

Ethical & Professional Conduct: Ensure ethical practices in all aspects of research including intellectual property, data management, confidentiality, and collegiality. Demonstrate ethical behaviour: integrity, honesty, and accountability. Learn from mistakes. Practice sustainability and act responsibly with the interests of the larger community and its future in mind.

Finances & Funding: Identify opportunities and apply for funding (e.g., fellowships, grants, scholarships). Manage finances and risks. Estimate costs and deliver projects on-budget.

Project & Time Management: Plan projects and tasks, including time, workload, and resources. Develop and prioritize strategic and tactical goals. Persevere and deal with competing pressures.

Work With Others

This theme includes using your interpersonal skills to collaborate successfully with diverse people and teams, lead and inspire others, empathize with and advocate for others, build an understanding of global and local context, or manage relationships.

Equity, Diversity & Inclusion: Value the benefits of diverse perspectives, lived experiences, and ways of thinking. Support and promote the voices of others during discussions. Collaborate successfully with cross-disciplinary and intercultural groups. Recognize discriminatory behavior and be an agent of change.

Global & Local Engagement: Advocate for and contribute to solving problems affecting the local and wider/global community. Participate in community, neighborhood, and international activities.

Leadership: Galvanize the strengths of others to achieve common goals. Use interpersonal skills to influence, mentor, coach, and develop others. Negotiate and manage conflict.

Teamwork & Interpersonal: Develop emotional intelligence, interact well with others, and build collaborative relationships for effective teamwork. Define roles and responsibilities of team members. Give and receive feedback and critical appraisals from team members.

Communicate Ideas

Frequently cited as a top skill in demand by employers, this theme encompasses your ability to articulate your ideas and knowledge to diverse groups through teaching, presenting, and writing.

Public Speaking: Present ideas persuasively to diverse audiences both visually and orally. Develop skills and confidence in public speaking.

Teaching: Plan and deliver learning experiences using pre-determined learning outcomes. Facilitate discussions, organize interactive sessions, and provide constructive feedback to participants.

Writing: Articulate ideas and knowledge effectively in writing for specific audiences and purposes. Develop strategies for dealing with “writer’s block.”

Solve Problems

Developing solutions to challenging problems involves analytical and critical reasoning, ideating creative options, and a willingness to work with ambiguity.

Analytical & Critical Reasoning: Analyze and synthesize complex information. Critically evaluate ideas and options. Develop and test hypotheses. Analyze and interpret findings.

Entrepreneurship: Initiate a non-profit or business venture by identifying and leveraging innovative ideas. Tolerate risk and uncertainty, demonstrate a positive attitude, and be achievement oriented.

Innovation & Creativity: Develop innovative and creative solutions. Recognize problems and opportunities, take initiative to generate and implement solutions that are effective and efficient. Demonstrate flexibility, tolerance for ambiguity or unpredictability, willingness to take appropriate risks, and interest in exploring the unknown.

Expand Your Expertise

Sometimes described as “hard skills” because they are more easily measured, this theme reflects your subject matter expertise and your ability to use specific tools, approaches, and technology (e.g. laboratory techniques or qualitative research approaches).

Subject Knowledge: Demonstrate knowledge of and/or develop an original contribution to subject area and research methods. Develop a critical understanding of relevant literature. Be familiar with publishing practices and professional development opportunities in your field.

Tools & Technology: Select and use appropriate tools or technology to accomplish a given task, and develop solutions to problems. Examples: software, programming, technical devices, information management and databases, laboratory skills, statistical and qualitative methods/programs, etc.

Be Well

Although it is listed as a distinct theme in this framework, wellness actually cuts across all of the themes. Having self-awareness and resilience, along with a healthy lifestyle will help you to be successful in all of the categories within the framework.

Healthy Living: Ensure personal wellbeing and work-life balance by establishing priorities (e.g., activities, exercise, sleep, nutrition, time with loved ones) that fulfill personal needs and enable feeling supported by others.

Resilience: Manage stress and anxiety. Develop the resilience and self-determination to overcome obstacles. Be empowered to take ownership and deal with uncertainty.

Self-Knowledge: Develop the self-awareness (strengths, weaknesses, interests, values, preferences) and the self-efficacy (confidence) to live a life that is more meaningful to you. Identify factors that contribute to your happiness.

Plan Your Career

This theme involves understanding your career preferences, exploring options and developing a network, and ultimately learning how to articulate your strengths to prospective employers.

Career Knowledge: Explore career options including academia, non-profits, government, and industry. Gain awareness of typical requirements and degree of competitiveness. Understand the hiring cycle in different sectors.

Applying & Interviewing: Articulate and communicate strengths, knowledge, and experience persuasively to potential employers. Demonstrate the transferability of your skills and knowledge to diverse employers. Adapt communication style and terminology for specific organizations to demonstrate fit.

Networking & Job Search: Create a professional network. Identify, reach out to, and maintain connections with potential collaborators, mentors, colleagues, and employers. Search for jobs in your target career area.


Executive Summary

Click here for the full report

Increased national and international focus on enhancing the graduate and postdoctoral experience at academic institutions, as well as providing support in their transition to a wide variety of careers, has led to a widespread interest in better articulating and serving the individual development needs of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.

McGill University has significantly expanded the number and diversity of services and programs that provide individual (academic, professional, and personal) development opportunities for graduate students and postdocs. More recently, McGill has introduced myPath: a network of tools and programs to help students and postdocs create an annual Individual Development Plan (IDP) that reflects their academic, professional and personal goals.

The McGill Framework Working Group, comprised of experts in student services and development from a variety of McGill units, was established in order to create an individual development framework that will unify these tools and offerings across the university to provide guidance and recommendations to graduate students and postdocs, while also helping administrators to design, advertise, deliver, and evaluate programming.

The Framework Working Group analyzed well-researched frameworks and reports on individual development practices from Canadian and international research, education, government, and corporate organizations. With the goal of adapting this established content into a McGill-specific framework, attributes identified in these documents were compiled, re-defined, and assembled into a cohesive framework of seven themes divided into twenty-one categories of individual development. This became the McGill Individual Development Framework.

The themes included in the framework cover a wide range of topics applicable to academic, professional, and personal contexts. They are: Lead Projects, Work with Others, Communicate Ideas, Solve Problems, Expand Your Expertise, Be Well, and Plan Your Career. Within these seven themes, there are twenty-one categories that focus on diverse aspects of individual development, including skills development, self-care practices, and career planning.

This comprehensive, yet succinct, framework is intended to be a flexible model that students and postdocs can use to create a customized Individual Development Plan that reflects the areas they wish to cultivate, and that administrators can use to identify gaps in their offerings as they align their programming with the framework. The McGill Individual Development Framework does not cover measurable outcomes; instead, it provides a starting template that departments and units at McGill can build on to create relevant program-specific learning outcomes.

To provide support for implementation across McGill, the Framework Working Group created a set of twenty-one handouts (one per framework category) that provide more robust descriptions, useful individual development strategies, and resources at and outside of McGill. The Framework Working Group will share this report broadly with all relevant units, and interested administrators are encouraged to join our Community of Practice.

The McGill Individual Development Framework can help students to unify their experiences at McGill, including their research project, coursework, and co-curricular activities. By promoting a unified individual development framework for its students, McGill can complement world-class academic experiences with expertly designed co-curricular activities in order to provide graduates with a competitive edge in a continuously evolving job market.