Your ‘career drivers’ reflect your values, motivations, strengths and work preferences. They grow from your underlying beliefs and personality, and relate to the ways that you like to think, work and apply your skills and knowledge. They will have guided many of your past decisions and choices, underpinning your successes and are probably reflected in your proudest achievements. They also determine which working environments, people and relationships can help you to be productive, happy and successful, and so it can be empowering to uncover, name and take ownership of your pattern of career drivers.
Understanding your career drivers can help you think more clearly and productively about possible career directions and so is important for effective career planning. As you research options around further study and possible work choices, this self-awareness can keep you focused on what is most important to you when evaluating options. It is relevant to both:
- What the role involves, the nature of the work, and the knowledge and skills you will be applying and developing; and
- How you will be working, especially the working environment and culture of the organisation and how this might be a good 'fit' for you and your working style.
Lastly, it will make you a stronger applicant if you can articulate clearly why you are interested in and well suited to a particular role alongside the evidence you present on the essential skills and knowledge you have for a role.
But careers drivers are hidden and can be difficult for us to identify. They tend not to sit on the surface and nor do you consciously apply them in most situations. To begin to uncover your career drivers you can use the clues found in:
- what you enjoy doing most
- what helps you to succeed and to feel successful, and
- understanding why you choose to do the things you do.
The Careers Service created Career Weaver to help everyone reflect and think more productively about their career drivers. It is a web-based app that can be accessed directly by students and staff with their Oxford SSO, and alumni can request access by sending us a message via the ‘queries tab’ in their CareerConnect account.
Career Weaver includes a dozen short exercises. These offer a first introduction to this kind of reflective work and we hope that everyone will find some exercises that resonate with them.
Each exercise offers a structured approach to help users explore a specific aspect of their career drivers. However, they use a variety of approaches and provide a language to work with in helping users understand what enables them to stay interested, energised and engaged at work; what underpins their success; and what helps to make their work meaningful. This variety of approaches is intended to ensure that everyone will find some exercises that fit well with their personal learning style. For example, some exercises encourage users to write notes within a particular frame, some use visual cues, whilst others ask people to work quickly and intuitively or challenge them to first make a selection from many options to focus your thinking before enabling you to capture your personal reflections. Lastly, most exercises need only a few minutes' work before the user is reflecting on the ideas and content they have created - we encourage users to dip into the different exercises to explore how these work and to select the ones they find most engaging as a starting point.
Whichever lens or lenses you are working with (eg, a ‘values’ lens, or ‘interests’, or ‘motivations’) aim to identify, understand and take ownerships of the facets or traits that are most important to you. It is more useful to develop a clearer understanding of your top two to four traits in each area rather than trying to rank order your top ten or twelve. It is also more realistic to look after a manageable number of 'career drivers': your work and your working environment will feel positive and enjoyable if it meshes well with your personal pattern of career drivers.
More information is provided in our briefing on Career Weaver.
Going beyond Career Weaver
Completing exercises in Career Weaver will be enough for some people to gain clarity and to take the next step(s).
For anyone interested extending their self-awareness, there are many other excellent tools that enable people to deepen their understanding of their career drivers. A lot of these also include or make suggestions for potential career matches, which is something that Career Weaver (quite deliberately) does not do. However, most of these alternative tools adopt only a single 'lens', and so are likely to only ever 'speak' to a subset of users for whom the approach and language is a more natural fit. For example, some people will find that personality based tools are particularly insightful, whilst others will prefer the language of values and motivations, or a strengths-based approach.
Career Weaver can, therefore, offer a first look at the variety of possible approaches and act as a signpost to which other tools might be a good match to the users own preferences and patterns of thinking. The External Resources section below includes short descriptions of, and links to, some of the tools we are aware of which you can use to go deeper.
Students can also speak with a Careers Adviser to discuss their insights and questions.