A quick Google search will bring up hundreds of articles on values and their relationship to career + life happiness. Many of these provide differing definitions of what a value is and why you should care.
What we can all agree on, is that what makes work feel satisfying to one person can be very different from what makes work feel satisfying to another. Knowing that there is no one size fits all work algorithm is important. More important still is knowing what works and doesn't work for you. Knowing your work values can help you plan a career, look for opportunities in your current work, or make a career change.
Work values are the work-related qualities, principles and standards that really matter to you. The aspects I focus on with my clients in pinpointing their values involves 6 areas: achievement, independence, recognition, relationships, support, and working conditions.
Knowing how you rank these 6 areas can help you set up a work situation for yourself that feels good to you.
You’ll want to find a way to identify occupations that you might find satisfying based on the similarity between your work values and the characteristics of the occupations you’re considering.
Here are 3 small steps to figure out what you value:
Step 1: Complete this exercise to find out how important each of these common work-related values is to you. For each value, write down whether it is:
VI – Very Important I – Important NI – Not Important
In my career, I am looking for:
___Balance: having the opportunity to focus on both my work and life roles (W)
___Recognition as an expert: being known as someone who has special knowledge or skills in a particular field (R)
___Belonging: being a part of a recognized group (RE)
___Challenges: doing things that expand my skills, knowledge or creativity (A)
___Competition: pitting my skills and abilities against others in order to succeed (A)
___Contact with other people: having daily contact with the public or co-workers (RE)
___Creativity: thinking up new ideas or ways of doing things (I)
___Decision-making rights: being in a position to decide how things should be done (I)
___Flexibility: being free to schedule my own work or to work in a variety of settings, such as working from home (I)
___Chances to help others: helping people, either one-on-one or in groups (RE)
___Chances to help society: doing something that is worthwhile or of benefit to society as a whole (RE)
___Independence: working with minimum direction and contact with others (I)
___Innovation: using or developing leading-edge technology or approaches (I)
___Intensity: doing work that is fast-paced or has a high degree of excitement or pressure (W)
___Lack of pressure: working in a job where the atmosphere, attitude and workload are relaxed (W)
___Learning opportunities: having support for formal and informal learning (A)
___Money: earning a specific amount or having the potential to achieve it (A)
___Power: having the authority to direct and influence others (R)
___Predictability: having work responsibilities that follow a clear, stable and unchanging routine (S)
___Promotion: having chances for advancement or increased responsibilities and recognition (R)
___Relationships: Having friends at work (RE)
___Respect: having employers, supervisors, co-workers and clients show respect for me and my work (S)
___Satisfaction: working in a job that supports my self-respect and sense of pride (A)
___Security: being assured of a job at a reasonable rate of pay (W)
___Status: having a higher standing or rank relative to others (R)
___ Support: Having a supportive supervisory and management team (S)
___Teamwork: interacting with, supporting and depending on others to meet goals and complete tasks (S)
___Variety: having work responsibilities that change often (W)
___Vision: working for a company whose culture truly reflects the company mission (S)
Step 2 – Sort your values under the appropriate heading below, write down the letter in brackets for each value also:
Very Important Values
Not Important Values
Step 3 – Now you have a short list of your most important values, important values and not important values when it comes to your work. This is good! You can now take it one step further by taking note of the letters in brackets at the end of each value above. These correspond to the global values listed below. You should now get a sense of which of these global values you consider to be most important, important and least important when it comes to your work.
(A) Achievement — Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.
(I) Independence — Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Related to Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.
(R) Recognition — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious. Related to Advancement, Authority, Recognition and Social Status.
(RE) Relationships — Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment. Related to Co-workers, Moral Values and Social Service.
(S) Support — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees. Related to Company Policies, Supervision.
(W) Working Conditions — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions. Related to Compensation, Security, Variety and specific Working Conditions.
This exercise should provide some good “food for thought” related to your work values. I dig into this much more deeply when working with clients but this is definitely a great starting point.
Now that you have some language around what you value at work, take some time to think about these. Do they provide any insight into why your current work situation might not feel satisfying? Do you see your top values reflected in people, businesses and occupations you admire or are drawn to? Start making connections between how you are spending your work days and what you value. If there is a gap, it might be time to consider what you can do to bring your work and values into better alignment. I’ll be providing some actionable advice related to this in upcoming articles. You can keep learning about yourself and how to find a better fit in your work here: 3 Small Steps to Figure Out What You Love. In the meantime, don't lose site of your values. If something feels off at work, think about ways you can start making some changes.
Need help to take this work deeper? Look into how to Work with Me and get help to get your career ball rolling!