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The Researcher Development Framework (RDF) describes personal effectiveness as ‘the personal qualities, career and self-management skills required to take ownership for and control of professional development.’ Developing personal effectiveness will also help you take ownership and develop other areas of your life as well as your career.

The skills needed in this area are often called ‘soft skills’ – ie those that are not always easily defined or measured, like technical skills can be. Soft skills are more to do with behaviour, attitudes, and how you manage yourself.

As defined in the RDF, personal effectiveness is about taking ownership and responsibility for your own life, work and results.

It involves:

  • Knowing what you want
  • Assessing what you already have going for you – skills, experience etc
  • Understanding what the barriers are to getting what you want – both in the external world and your own internal one – and learning how to overcome them
  • Taking responsibility for making things happen
  • Developing the determination, skills and experience you need to reach your goals
  • Planning and implementing action.

The topics covered in this section will all help you to develop personal effectiveness skills. The detailed pages that cover Domain B of the Researcher Development Framework will also give you guidance on the skills, attitudes and attributes you can assess and develop in order to build your personal effectiveness in the research context.

Your Core Values and Career Anchors

Your core values are central to helping you decide how you want to live and work. If you are living and working in line with your values, you will feel energised and motivated. If not, things will feel wrong. That doesn’t mean to say that living and working in accordance with your values is easy – sometimes it’s not, and sometimes one value will conflict with another. But if you put your values at the centre of your decision making, you will find more fulfilment in your life and work.

See the Core values PDF handout or view the Core Values handout as a webpage.

Identifying and working with your core values will help you in all aspects of your life, including determining the direction of your career. If you would like to extend this work and think in more detail about how you want to shape your career, Edgar Schein’s Career Anchors tool provides a framework to help you identify and think about what is particularly important to you individually in your career. Hold it lightly – it’s just a tool to help your thinking, not a way to pigeon hole you.

See the Career Anchors PDF handout or view the Career Anchors handout as a webpage

Assessing and developing your skills and experience

See the relevant pages on training for Phil students and training for research staff

Time management

‘Your life is what you do with your time.’

Effective time management is an important skill; it helps you to get done what you want and need to do, and to balance your life in the way that’s right for you. Time management is a personal effectiveness skill because it is not really about time at all. How you spend your time is all about choices – it’s about your habits, attitudes, how you prefer to work, what you choose to prioritise, what you choose to say no to, about your relationships and how you manage them. That means there are no hard and fast answers to effective time management – it’s about working out what’s right for you.

These resources include sections on Time Management for DPhil students and Time Management for Research Staff.  Some information is common to both, but they are tailored to the particular audience. Do look at both if they're useful.


Assertiveness helps to build positive relationships and helps you to work towards productive outcomes from your interactions with others. This will contribute to your effectiveness.

‘Assertive’ is quite a misunderstood adjective – it is often used to describe someone who is in fact aggressive. Being assertive means treating both yourself and other people with equal respect.

It is a form of behaviour rather than a type of person or personality, so as with any other form of behaviour, it is something that you can choose to do – or not – in any given circumstance. It is made up of a collection of skills that can be learnt and practised just like any other.  

See the handout on assertiveness (PDF) for more information or view the handout on assertiveness as a webpage.


Resilience is the ‘ability to recover from or adjust…to misfortune and change’ (Merriam Webster Dictionary) and is a key component in making progress.

We all have to deal with problems and stress in our lives and work, and different things will affect each of us to a different degree. Those who build good resilience handle difficulties in a way that enables them to recover and adjust, and in ways that help them become stronger. People with little resilience risk being overwhelmed and blocked by the difficulties that come their way, and may try to cope in ways that actually reduce their strength.

Everyone will be more resilient in some areas, and less in others.  The comfort – challenge – panic curve can help us think about this in detail. Many of the activities we carry out are easy and well within our comfort zone. Those that are new or more difficult will present us with a level of challenge; generally a level of challenge is good, because this is where our learning happens. However the level of challenge is too high, if we are expected to do or try to do something that is too difficult, we may tip over into panic.

The comfort-challenge-panic curve - if the challenge part of the curve rises too steeply it tips over into panic.

If you were doing any of the following, where on the curve would you be?

  • Carrying out an unfamiliar piece of research
  • Writing a paper
  • Organising a conference
  • Job interview
  • Sudden pressure of too much to do
  • Preparing to go abroad
  • Flying
  • Singing

The more you do that tips you into panic, the less resilient you will be, so develop an awareness of what depletes your resilience so that you can manage and balance it. Also develop an awareness of where and when you are resilient. Is there anything you can learn from your resilient areas that would transfer and help you build it where it is lower? What level of challenge is good for you?

This article from Mindtools on resilience provides more information about what resilience is and how to develop it.

More information, concepts and tools on resilience

Your Core Values: Maintain an awareness of your values and keep them at the forefront of your decision making. See the handout on core values (links under 'Your core values and Career Anchors' above). 

Have a look at this presentation on Circles of Influence (PDF) (or you can view the presentation on Circles of Influence as a webpage), read more information on Circles of Influence and do the exercises. They will help you focus your energy on things you can influence

Challenge your Limiting Beliefs and Imposter Syndrome: see the online course on Imposter Syndrome and handout on Imposter Syndrome.

Learn about Emotional Intelligence.

Look after yourself and ask for help: Looking after yourself for DPhil students and Looking after yourself for Research staff

LinkedIn LearningBuilding Resilience

Influencing and persuading

Influencing and persuading skills can help you work together with others to achieve your own, and shared goals. Good influencing and persuading skills are essential to good collaboration, team work and leadership. Think back to your own experiences of being influenced or persuaded to do something. How did other people behave in order to persuade you to do something, or influence your thinking? As with many soft skills, working together, collaborating and being reciprocal usually results in more committed success.

Allen R Cohen and David L Bradford created The Influence Model, based on the principle of reciprocity. They say, ‘There are numerous ways of categorizing influence behavior. You can influence people by methods such as rational persuasion, inspirational appeal, consultation, ingratiation, personal appeal, forming a coalition, or relentless pressure.’ (Cohen and Bradford, The Influence Model: Using Reciprocity and Exchange to Get what You Need)

Other resources

Vitae on Personal Effectiveness

Linked in Learning:

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