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Clarifying Your Career & Work Values for Career Satisfaction

career and work valuesWhat Are Work Values?

Values are aspects of your life that you deem important. Some examples are: helping others, influencing others, engaging in challenging work. Knowing your values is essential when choosing a career. Individuals who find themselves in work environments that match their values are more likely to feel content and fulfilled by their work. 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.

Clarify your career values. Take our career values quiz. 

Defining Your Work Values

Regardless of the values most important to you, it’s important to clarify what it means to you specifically. For example, if you claimed power as a highly important value, ask, “What does power mean for me?” Your answer may vary from power = independence, authority, recognition, or influence. Try the value of freedom. Freedom = independence, time freedom, variety, financial independence. Each represents something different. Defining your work values can help you target directly what you are looking for in a position or career, communicate with clarity in your job search and ask appropriate questions in your interviews.

Generational Value Differences

Below is a list of values that have been found to be representative of core values across four generational time spans. This gives you insight into what matters most to your peer group as well as those you may be working with or who are in charge of your organization or comprise your management team. 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 1943-1060. Core Values: Team Orientation, Personal Gratification, Personal Growth

Gen X, Born in 1960-1980. Core Values: Diversity, Work-Life Balance, Fun, Self-Reliance

Millenials or Gen Y, Born in 1980-2000. Core Values: Achievement, Help Society, Sociability, Moral Fulfillment

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.

Clarifying Your Career Values – Case Study

Leslie became dissatisfied with her job after recent promotion from civil engineer to project manager. Since the promotion, she began dreading going to work. Leslie worked for 10 years as a civil engineer before her promotion. She visited with a career counselor to gain insight into why she was so unhappy with her promotion. Leslie stated she wanted help looking for a new job because she dreaded work so much.

Leslie’s career counselor helped her identify the values that had drawn her to her engineering career: intellectual status – she enjoyed being a subject matter expert in her field, working alone, predictability – knowing what was expected each day, and stability. Her current promotion involved constant interaction with her employees and clients and making decisions which Leslie felt she had no time to fully think through. She didn’t like the constant change and variety in her new work role and the last minute pressures.

Leslie came to realize that what she loved about being an engineer was missing in her new role as project manager. Once she recognized and reevaluated the aspects of her job that she enjoyed, she was happy to remain at her current employer in her new position as lead civil engineer. It wasn’t necessary for her to change companies or careers.

Identify Your Career Values

Taking the time to evaluate your values will make it easier to choose a career path that will bring you satisfaction. Take the career values quiz and discuss your results with a career counselor, coach or outside perspective to help you identify what’s missing and what’s needed in your career. Once you’ve clarified your values, conduct research on potential careers and organizations to identify where you’re more likely to find a match with your most important values.

Using Your Career Values Information in Your Job Search

Ask questions related to your career values when interviewing for jobs, or when discussing potential opportunities with others. Be mindful of asking questions in a way that supports your candidacy while obtaining valuable information about the position. For example, if independent is a high value of yours 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?” See this link for specific examples of questions to ask in the career research or job search phase.

The Occupational Network classifies occupations based on a number of factors including VALUES. Visit this site to search for occupations based on primary value areas. You can also search occupations by interests and skills using onet.

Consider Other Assessment Tools for a Complete Picture of Career Satisfaction

The elements of a satisfying career include alignment with your most important values, fit with your personality type, match with your career interests and alignment with your skills and strengths. Find out more about available personality and interest assessment tests Eddins Counseling Group offers.

“Being true to your values can liberate creative energy and make you more capable of finding your way intact through a tough transition.” – Everett

For additional resources for your career, visit our career resources page or download our guide, “7 Steps to Making Positive Career Choices.”

Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP on Twitter
Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP
Rachel’s passion is to help people discover their personal gifts and strengths to achieve self-acceptance, create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body, and find meaning and fulfillment in work and life roles. She helps people create nurturance and healing from within to restore balance and enoughness and overcome binge eating, emotional eating, anxiety, depression and lack of career fulfillment.

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