Identify Your Work & Career Values to Make Informed Career Choices

What are Career & Work Values?

career and work valuesWork values reflect the qualities of a career or job that are satisfying, rewarding and motivating to you. They reflect what you want in a career.

This includes factors such as what type of environment and working conditions are an ideal fit for you, your preference in work relationships, content you prefer to focus on, and level of responsibility.

Some examples are: helping others, influencing others, engaging in challenging work.

“Values give us the stars by which we navigate ourselves through life.” – Simon

Why are Work Values Important?

Knowing your work values provides important criteria for career decisions and evaluating employment opportunities.

Individuals who find themselves in work environments that match their work 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.

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 and/or depression.

How Career Values Impact Career Dissatisfaction

Often career dissatisfaction can be a result of a mismatch with your most important values. Clarifying your work values can help you identify what exactly is missing from your current position.

Prioritizing your career values can help you identify better fit organizations, environments and opportunities.

If you found a position that was near “perfect” in meeting your values, you might be willing to sacrifice on other qualities as long as your top values and needs were met. As you clarify your values, think of the specifics of what each value means to you so you can clearly define your job search for work that will satisfy you.

To find out your most important career values, complete our career values assessment.

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.

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

Defining Your Work Values

work career values

Your career values provide direction to a satisfying career.

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

Millennials 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 & Work Values – A 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.

How to 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.

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.

Assess Organizational Work Values in Your Job Search

career satisfaction career values

Navigate your way towards a satisfying career.

Understanding how your work values align with a particular group or organization is important in any career decision-making process.

There is an important dynamic relationship between our individual career values and those of organizations or groups in which we work and spend most of our time.

Ask questions related to your career values when interviewing for jobs, or when discussing potential opportunities with others.

Keep in mind that the questions you ask in an interview also reveal what is important to you, so conduct any research you can ahead of time so you can be selective in the interview.

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?”

Some questions may be more appropriate in the research phase vs. the interview phase.

Read more on how to identify LGBTQ affirming organizations. 

“Shared values are the foundation for building productive and genuine working relationships.” – Posner

Questions to Ask to Assess Organizational or Career Fit with Your Work Values

When conducting informational interviews on potential career options or interviewing for a job, the following questions can help you assess how well their values fit with yours.

Select the questions that fit with your most important work and career values.

Intrinsic Values

  • Do you have a mission statement?
  • How are decisions typically made?
  • How supportive is the organization regarding family obligations? Do you have an employer childcare?
  • What traits have led to success in the organization?
  • What do you like about the organization? Dislike?
  • How is performance evaluated? What is rewarded?
  • What kind of customer service do you provide?
  • How would you rate quality of your product/service?
  • Are there significant numbers of women in management? People of color?
  • How much turnover is there?
  • Have layoffs occurred recently? Do you feel alternatives have been explored?
  • How is telecommuting, job-sharing, part-time work regarded here?
  • How is the competition seen?
  • Is there an effort to conserve/recycle?
  • Would you give the product/service of this organization to someone you love as a gift?

Work Environment Values

  • Are people expected to work within well-defined policies and procedures?
  • Is there encouragement for flexibility and innovation?
  • Do people have much fun? Do you notice people laughing?
  • What kinds of things do people do at lunchtime?
  • Do managers have a sense of humor?
  • Is there much opportunity / encouragement for mobility, cross-training, lateral moves, etc.?
  • What is the pace of work like? Are there peaks and valleys, or is it fairly constant?
  • How much flexibility is there in scheduling?
  • What is the normal dress code? How much latitude is there?
  • Do people set their own deadlines within reason?
  • What is your typical work schedule in an average week? Is it typical to work nights and/or weekends?

Work Content Values

  • What do you like most and least about your work?
  • Is working on the leading edge or producing a high quality product more important here?
  • Is innovation valued?
  • Can you manage your own work flow or does the nature of the work dictate the pace?
  • Are decisions often made close to the point of action here, or more likely to require management approval?
  • What kind of training is provided for new people?
  • What is a typical day/week like for you?
  • Are there multiple career tracks here?
  • Are there programs for quality management, skill sharing, team building?

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?
  • To what extent do you think office politics makes it difficult for you to do your work?
  • Is there much consensus decision-making here? Or does it happen more unilaterally?
  • How easy is it to ask for help here?
  • Do new teams form, or do people tend to work in the same groups over the longer term?
  • How is conflict dealt with here?
  • How well do departments work together?

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.”

Career Coaching Can Help You Find a Rewarding Career

Eddins Counseling Group’s career coaches can work with you in person, via phone, or video regardless of your location. Sometimes, it can be helpful to have an outside perspective to help you put the pieces together and identify a rewarding career path. Give us a call if you’re ready to take the next step in your career. To get started now give us a call to schedule an appointment at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online.

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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