Professional Development

Professional development to enhance core competencies in discipline-specific conceptual knowledge, research skills, communication skills, professionalism, leadership and management skills, and responsible conduct of research are key components of the GW postdoc experience.

During your time at the George Washington University (GW), we are committed to supporting your professional development.

Individual Development Plans (IDPs)

Postdocs are highly encouraged to create an Individual Development Plan (IDP) and update the plan at least once per year. IDPs provide a structure for the identification and achievement of career goals.

Please note that many sponsored projects, e.g., those funded by National Institutes of Health (NIH), require faculty to report on the use of IDPs for any graduate trainees or postdocs in their annual progress reports.

There are several IDP tools, and each is appropriate for different disciplines. Ask mentors or faculty in your field about which IDP tool is appropriate.

IDP Resources

  • myIDP, a free web-based career-planning tool for PhD students and postdocs in the sciences.
  • ImaginePhD, a free online career exploration and planning tool for PhD students and postdoctoral scholars in the humanities and social sciences.
  • The National Postdoctoral Association has created the Guide to Using an Individual Development Plan (My IDP & Me) to help navigate this process.

National Postdoc Association

GW is an institutional member in the National Postdoc Association, which provides many free resources on its website, and has a local chapter. GW postdocs have access to a free “affiliate” membership which can be claimed by visiting the organization’s website.

Core Competencies

Postdocs can use the six core competencies outlined by the National Postdoc Association when crafting their IDP, goal-setting, or evaluating their own professional development. The following are suggestions for GW postdocs to develop skills within each area:

#1. Discipline-specific conceptual knowledge

  • Attend department- and discipline-specific seminars.
  • Cultivate mentor/mentee relationships with GW faculty and postdoc peers.

#2. Research skill development

#3. Communication skills

  • Identify opportunities to present your work on campus or at conferences. Practice with peers and in lab groups.
  • Familiarize yourself with the scholarly writing resource guides and support provided by Gelman Library and Himmelfarb Library.
  • Attend grant writing and proposal development sessions offered by your program, your school and the Research Enhancement Unit within the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.
  • Explore training and services provided by Gelman Library’s CREATE Digital Studio. Studio staff can help you use digital storytelling to effectively communicate your research and ideas in the online world.
  • Take graduate-level coursework in teaching STEM.

#4. Professionalism

  • Volunteer for service opportunities within your department, professional organizations, or the GW Postdoc Association.
  • Participate in professional development and career-oriented sessions.

#5. Leadership and management skills

  • Supervise and mentor undergraduate and graduate student researchers.
  • Explore modules on successfully managing up

#6. Responsible conduct of research


In addition to a primary mentor/supervisor, postdocs should begin to build a network of peers, near-peers, and distinguished scholars and researchers that can provide diverse perspectives on the postdoc experience and career development. The Postdocs’ Guide to Gaining Independence, made available by the National Institutes of Health National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, provides networking tips.

National Center for Professional Development and Diversity

GW is an Institutional Member of the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD). The NCFDD is an independent faculty development center dedicated to supporting academics in making successful transitions throughout their careers. All GW postdocs have access to member resources, including webinars, discussion forums, writing challenges and accountability resources. Visit the GW Faculty Affairs website to learn how to access NCFDD.

LinkedIn Learning

GW affiliates have unlimited access to one of the top professional growth tools in the field. With LinkedIn Learning, you can learn new skills by taking a variety of workshops that are right at your fingertips.

Talent@GW Learning

Take advantage of Talent@GW - Learning to learn new skills and develop abilities that will help you in your career. Select “Browse for Training” under the Learning menu.

Tuition Remission and Exchange

Tuition remission and tuition exchange benefits are available to Postdoc Associates. Read more on the Postdoc Benefits Program webpage.

Resources for Biomedical Postdocs

The School of Medicine and Health Sciences website lists professional development opportunities and resources for postdocs on a biomedical research career path.

Other Resources