February 20, 2017
Career & Work Values
Written by Rachel Eddins
What are Career Values?
Oxford Languages define values as “the regard that something is held to deserve.” It’s subjective and can change at any time.
The terms values, morals, and beliefs are interchangeable and vital because they affect how you live your life more than anything else. There may be circumstances that impede your ability to live by them, but for most of your life, things line up with the morals and values you hold.
Throughout your life, these were either instilled in you or picked up along the way. Meaning you’ve been in a whole series of environments or situations that you liked and disliked, and they left an impression.
And you can use those experiences to figure things out like:
- The type of environment you enjoy
- Working conditions that are an ideal fit for you
- The kind of work relationships you prefer
- The content you’d rather focus on
- The level of responsibility you could tolerate
Some work values examples are: helping others, influencing others, engaging in challenging work.
If you can use your preferences to determine friends, relationships, and other life preferences ─ you can use them to find your career.
Why are Work Values Important?
You spend a lot of time at work. What you do every day can be the difference between a fulfilled, happy life and an empty one depending on your values.
No one wants to go to work and wonder what they are doing with their life. You deserve the joy of loving your work and feeling aligned with it.
We see it over and over again ─ individuals that function in work environments that match their work values are more likely to feel content and fulfilled. This means that knowing your work values provides important criteria for career decisions and evaluating employment opportunities.
In fact, one of the most common reasons for career dissatisfaction and career change is a mismatch between a person’s primary work values and their position. Pursuing a career, position, or organization that incorporates your most important work values can make a big difference in job satisfaction, stress level, and even anxiety or depression.
It really is that important. When you are able to better understand your career values, you can identify what is missing from your current situation.
Maybe you are in the right field, but with the wrong company or the conditions don’t suit you. Prioritizing your career values can help you identify better fit organizations, environments, and opportunities.
Identify Your Career & Work Values
When you’re attempting to deduce your values, you can start by taking our career values quiz. Evaluating your values will make it easier to choose a career path or simply understand what matters to you.
A big part of career anxiety is wondering if you are doing the right thing. Identifying your values can help you better understand whether or not those feelings are based on fact or fear.
Once you have a better understanding, you might conduct research on potential careers and organizations to identify where you’re more likely to find a match with your most important values. You can visit this site to search for occupations based on primary value areas.
An important distinction we like to make here is that regardless of the values most important to you, it’s important to clarify what it means to you specifically.
For example, if you claim power is an important value, ask, “What does power mean for me?”
Your answer may vary from power = independence, authority, recognition, or influence.
Try freedom. Freedom = independence, time freedom, variety, financial independence.
Each work value represents something different.
Defining your career values can help you target directly what you are looking for in a position or career during your job search or while getting closer to deciding what to study.
Generational Work Value Differences
When you are deciding on a path forward, in your career or in your education, you might be doing a lot of asking. You ask people you know or meet about what their occupation is, how they got into it, and what they wish they knew when they were just starting out.
Whether you’ve worked before or are playing around with the idea, you have a lot to consider, and asking around can help give you some perspective on what’s possible.
Ask you have these conversations with people, you may notice that their focus differs slightly depending on their age and their background. If you were born after 1960, your values are likely a bit different than most born before.
What we mean is the era you are born in has a set of challenges and focuses specific to that time.
So, this gives you insight into what matters most to each group. It might be reflected in who you are working with or who is in charge of your organization. An organization’s leadership team will guide the values of the organization.
- Traditionalists, Born in 1922-1943. Core Values: Dedication, Sacrifice, Respect for Authority, Patience
- Boomers, born in 1943-1960. Core Values: Team Orientation, Personal Gratification, Personal Growth
- Gen X, Born in 1960-1980. Core Values: Diversity, Work-Life Balance, Fun, Self-Reliance
- Millennials or Gen Y, Born in 1980-2000. Core Values: Achievement, Help Society, Sociability, Moral Fulfillment
- Gen Z, Born 2000-2020. Core Values: Continuous Learning, Diversity and Inclusion, Collaboration, Balance
This list only covers a few of the characteristic values that define a generation. Just because you fit in one birth date doesn’t mean you necessarily have these values; it’s just a way to recognize values typical of a generation.
How to Assess Organizational Values
There is a dynamic relationship between our career values and those of organizations or groups in which we work and spend most of our time. Understanding how your work values align with a particular group or organization is vital in any career decision-making process.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions to understand better this dynamic and how it affects your position concerning the company. Some people think that the only person who can ask anything during the interview is the one conducting it, but we disagree.
At work, you have relationships, and relationships work both ways. If asking is an issue, that might be your first indication of a good fit, depending on your career choice.
Keep in mind that the questions you ask in an interview also reveal what’s important to you, so conduct any research you can ahead of time to be selective in the interview. And be mindful of asking questions in a way that supports your candidacy while obtaining valuable information about the position.
For example, if independence is a high value, rather than saying, “will I be micro-managed?” Or, “will I have to report to someone?” Ask, “can you describe the management style?” “How are decisions typically made?”
There are three different kinds of questions you should ask to assess organizational values, including:
Do they have a mission statement?
How is performance evaluated? What is rewarded?
How is the competition seen?
You must understand their values. Everyone has had that job where everything was alright, but then you witness their collective reaction to change or how they disregard suggestions, and that doesn’t fly with you. Having a good picture of how they handle highs and lows can give you some idea of what it’s like to be a part of their world.
Are people expected to work within well-defined protocols and procedures?
How much flexibility is there with scheduling?
What kind of things do people do at lunchtime?
The culture of your work can make or break how you feel about an organization. If people are negative and miserable, you won’t really enjoy it. Have you ever walked into a room with low energy, and even though you are fine, it starts to impact you?
Feelings are contagious, which means your coworkers have a huge impact on your happiness at work. Humans are incredibly social, even if you aren’t. It’s important to have a work environment that supports you and your efforts.
When choosing a path, career anxiety can make us jump at whatever opportunity arises, but you need to consider the work environment you’ll be in most days. We have an entire post on that HERE.
Work Relationship Values
Do people collaborate or work more independently?
Is individual technical competence highly valued, or is it more important to work within the team?
Do people eat together? Go out together after work?
Family and work have a lot in common. They are both groups of people you may or may not have chosen to spend a good deal of time around. There is a set of rules, either discussed or not, that both groups follow. You might even notice a sort of hierarchy involved.
Just like your family, coworkers are a big part of your life. So, it’s not crazy to say that the kind of relationships they tend to have with each other is something you need to look out for.
The kind of relationships coworkers have can make or break your time with a company. If there is little teamwork and everything is competitive rather than cooperative, that might change how you feel about working there depending on your preferences.
Seek Help Clarifying Your Work Values
If you’re not sure how to identify your work values, a career counselor can help. A counselor can ask questions, explore your past experiences and administer assessments to help you clarify your most important values.
These additional resources may also help:
- Try this exercise to identify what is important to you in a career
- Take personality and career assessment tests
- How to explore career change options
- Take our career burnout test
- Identify your core life values
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