Assess your values, capabilities and expertise

A natural starting point to researching potential future careers is to reflect on your values, capabilities and expertise.

Values and Motivations

Understanding the basic principles by which you live your life and make decisions is important and will help in career management.
When looking for a job or making career plans its easy to forget to consider our own values and motivations - especially when our immediate concerns are things like meeting our financial responsibilities. However, if our work does not fit with our values or motivations we are likely to become demotivated, disillusioned or not perform as well as we might.

Values are the beliefs, attitudes and judgements that are most important to us. Consider:
What values are important to you? For example

  • Integrity
  • Trust
  • Respect etc

What motivates you? For example

  • Helping others
  • Making something new - a discovery, piece of art/written work etc.
  • Money
  • Status

What work environments do you excel in or alternatively what environments do you struggle to work in? For example

  • Noisy/quiet environments?
  • Alone or with others?
  • In a creative atmosphere?

Answers to these questions can help to identify your career anchors (Organisational Culture and Leadership, 3rd Edition, E. Schein). Career anchors are your unique combination of perceived career competence, motives and values. There are eight career anchors in total:

  • entrepreneurial creativity
  • technical/functional competence
  • service or dedication to the cause
  • general managerial competence
  • pure challenge
  • autonomy/independence
  • lifestyle
  • security/stability

Assessing capabilities and expertise

Understanding your own strengths and capabilities is vital to unearthing the range of careers that may be open to you. There are several useful tools that may help you get started:

  • The Vitae Researcher Development Framework  (RDF) and our ‘lenses’ on the RDF provide a good starting point.  They articulate the knowledge, behaviours and attributes of successful researchers and can help you to recognise and focus on developing your strengths in specific areas such as enterprise, teaching or information literacy
  • Seeking feedback from colleagues, friends and family can help in understanding how others perceive you and your own strengths
  • Completing a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis (SWOT) can help to organise your thoughts in preparation for creating a personal development plan.

Create a personal development plan

Once you have identified your values, motivations, strengths and weaknesses you may want to feed these into a personal development plan. Spending time on this before applying for jobs is worthwhile as it will help in completing applications and preparing for interviews and will save time in the long-run.

A personal development plan helps you to take ownership for your own development. It puts you in a good position to grasp opportunities as they emerge.

The plan can be revisited regularly to reflect on progress, record any changes and plan the next steps for your professional development.