Writing Effective IDP Goals – Help


This document supports the Digital Individual Development Plan (IDP) Pilot sponsored by NER, NCR, and SER. These pages are internal links for the Digital IDP currently under development. Please check back periodically as we update these resources.


A goal declares a desirable future end state, condition, or outcome. You may have many personal and professional goals such as raise a family, get promoted, go to the Bahamas for vacation, or run a marathon.

IDP Elements

Your IDP is a strategic plan for your development. Your goals focus on WHY you are putting the plan together. Explore the importance of starting with “Why” by Simon Senik.




A goal without a plan is just a wish.

Your IDP will flow from each goal statement you create that describes WHY. Learning Objectives describe WHAT knowledge, skills, or abilities you need to achieve your goals. Actions called Developmental Activities articulate HOW you might meet your objectives. All of these together are your IDP.

In terms of your Individual Development Plan, there are fundamentally three types of goals:

  1. Develop yourself in a new role you recently transitioned into (Learn the Ropes)
  2. Master a role you currently have (Become an Expert)
  3. Prepare for a future role (Explore Possibilities)

Writing Goal Statements

“A problem clearly stated is a problem half solved.” – Dorothea Brande

An IDP Goal Statement combines one type of development goal with a role you define in a sentence with a time frame. Your IDP flows from each simple goal statement you make into a structured plan describing what and how you will get to your goal. It is possible to have more than one goal statement in an IDP, but you run the risk of diluting your focus.

To create a focused IDP Goal statement, use this formula:

IDP Goal Writing Template

The Digital IDP will guide you through this process (coming soon!).

The Developing a Good Goal Statement worksheet is available for other types of goals.


Roles can be defined by one or more of the following:

  • Career Field – examples: Interpretation, Facilities, GIS, Emergency Services, Security, etc.
  • Position Title – examples: Carpenter, CEO, Vice President, Chief Ranger, or Management Analyst.
  • Position Series – examples: 0025 Park Ranger Generalist, 0090 Park Guide, 0340 Program Manager
  • Grade or rank – examples: GS-11, Lt. Commander, CEO, Lead, Supervisory
  • Appointment type – examples: permanent, term, career seasonal, 1039 seasonal
  • Location – examples: Mountain District, Regional Office, Yellowstone, WASO
  • Any other specific role or function that can define and focus your IDP: supervisor, effective leader, skilled data processor, project manager, exhibit reviewer, data steward, web master, Facebook administrator, podcaster, public speaker, etc.

Time Frame

Putting a time frame on your goal ensures that it is reasonable and actionable. It helps to evaluate your success by seeing if you accomplished anything toward your goal within the time frame you set. Time frames ensure you revisit the IDP and make adjustments – are the goals still valid? Has anything changed with your family situation, life goals, or aspirations that could affect the goal?

Suggested time frames:

  • Less than a year – use this for annual IDPs and short term assignments
  • 1-3 years – position and grade changes, major location moves
  • 3-5 years – career trajectory goals, long term milestones and events


  • My development goal is to get oriented to my new role as a Patrol Ranger at Acadia NP within 1 year.
  • My development goal is to improve my current role as a supervisor within less than a year.
  • My development goal is to prepare for my future role as a permanent employee of the NPS within 1-3 years.
  • My development goal is to prepare for the future role of Chief of Interpretation in a western park within 3-5 years.
  • My development goal is to get oriented to my new role as a project lead for the new exhibits within a month.
  • My development goal is to improve in my current role as a MBA student to get a degree within 1-3 years.
  • My development goal is to prepare for my future role as a leader in the NPS within 3-5 years.

This article focuses on Individual Development Plan goals – if you are interested in creating other kinds of goal statements, go to this worksheet (coming soon!).

Number of Goals

It is possible to have multiple goals in an IDP, however, to be focused and effective you should limit your goals. It is possible to nest your goals to get a comprehensive long term plan.


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