Analyse You

Researchers are great at analysis – you scrutinise research papers, you analyse methodologies, you deep-dive into complex data sets, you evaluate conclusions and you use a wide and sophisticated set of tools to achieve all of these analytical activities.

But what about you, the researcher? How about your self-analysis? Are you investigating yourself and wondering where your researcher journey is headed? Are you curious to know what types of careers will be best suited to you, your values, interests, skills and personality?

Taking time out of your research to analyse yourself and find true purpose in what you are doing might be the hardest research project you ever take on. Despite the challenges faced when carrying out your PhD or postdoctoral research, designing and conducting experiments, drawing conclusions, publishing your findings, etc., the art of self-discovery is a much more tricky and subjective process.

I say ‘subjective’ and this can have more than one meaning: First, many researchers wed themselves to their research subject of interest, ignoring the very personal aspects that constitute their true and authentic selves. Secondly, self-analysis can be very difficult to do when you’re inside yourself. Sometimes, others can see things in you that you cannot see yourself. This is why career counselling, guidance and coaching professionals can help you to figure out where your strengths and passions really lie, as well as helping you to achieve your aims. In addition, there are a variety of assessment tools that can assist you individually to reflect on your  

On that note, I thought I’d share with you two self-analysis tools that I use to help researchers to recognise aspects of themselves beyond their subject interests, so that they can apply this knowledge to creating a fulfilling career for themselves.

If you wish to try them out, it may help you to consider a wider range of career options or confirm to you what you already were thinking with regard to potential careers of interest.


Adapted from Holland’s theory of career choice, my PhD Career Choice Indicator pictured above consists of six skills/interest categories: FUNCTIONAL, INVESTIGATIVE, ARTICTIC, SOCIAL, ENTERPRISE and MANAGEMENT. Depicted as a hexagon, each of the categories has a descriptor that allows you to understand more fully what each of them means. The assessment is very simple – you just need to rank the categories in order of preference, in terms of what you enjoy doing. Your top 3 choices will start to give you an idea of what really interests you, as well as the types of tasks and activities you want to take with you to you in your next role. The least enjoyable category will also show you the kinds of work you might want to minimise as far as possible in your next job.

Have a go and see what you think – it’s really just a starting point, as it only considers skills and interests, however it can help you to start focussing your options more accurately, and some of the descriptors can also be useful to use as keywords when searching for future roles, whether within or outside of academia.


I use an abridged and adapted version of an original values assessment created by Edward Schein and published in his book ‘Career Anchors’. I’ve altered the questions and descriptors to make them more relevant to doctoral researchers and made use of the questionnaire that I published in my book, ‘Career Planning for Research Bioscientists’, along with another assessment focussed on personality, adapted from the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) – not included here.

Some of the values that Schein includes in his assessment map quite nicely onto the skills in my PhD Career Choice Indicator, such as FUNCTIONAL and GENERAL MANAGERIAL COMPETENCES, whilst others, such as SECURITY/STABILITY and PURE CHALLENGE, are more related to lifestyle and preferred ways of working. To see more about the Values Assessment and to take the test go to my Googledocs for the pdf.

There are many other assessment tools, such as MyIDP and the Vitae RDP, so why not spend some time over the holiday period on you, so that going into the new year you’ll feel more confident and assured about where you want to take your career next. And don’t forget, this is just a starting point that only takes account of your skills, interests and values. A career professional will be able to help you with your self-analysis more fully, as well as supporting you with other parts of the career planning process.

Related content:

Decisions Decisions

Skills and Thrills – What motivates you?

The Skilled Researcher

Value Added Careers

Leave a Reply