The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed our world in a way that few could have predicted. We suddenly find ourselves with the opportunity to reexamine our values—especially as they relate to our careers. One way the current environment has impacted us is that we crave more meaning in our work. Our priorities have changed, and it’s affecting our professional outlook. If you find yourself wanting more out of your job and perhaps even considering a career change, it’s essential first to examine your work values.
What are work values?
According to Liz Cannata, Sr. Manager of HR Operations at CareerBuilder, “Just like personal values, work values have to do with your preferences, purpose and desired path. It’s important to consider these values as you explore your current job satisfaction level and think about future career development.” These core principles are an essential part of who you are and can be categorized as intrinsic, extrinsic and lifestyle values. Intrinsic values keep you motivated and engaged in your job. They are what make you want to jump out of bed in the morning and can include things like:
- Being creative
- Having variety
- Feeling respected
- Learning new things
- Experiencing challenging work
Extrinsic values include more tangible rewards like:
- High salary
- Health benefits
- Flexible work policy
- Unlimited vacation days
Lifestyle values describe your personal preferences about where you live or how you like to spend your free time and include:
- Living close to work
- Living in a warm climate
- Living in a metropolitan area
Why are work values important?
Ultimately, people are happier when their value system aligns with their job. In fact, job satisfaction is determined more by how your values align with your work environment than by any other factor. Therefore, it is important to analyze your work values to clarify where your priorities lie.
By identifying your values, you can make better career choices by answering questions like:
- What job fits my personality?
- What kind of work will I find fulfilling?
- What work environment will best fit me?
How do I identify my work values?
Cannata also shares this advice, “If discovering your values sounds lofty—it is—it can be a lifelong process. But since your values influence your career satisfaction, it’s important to reflect on them deeply. When in doubt, ‘preference, purpose, path’ can help organize your self-reflection. Consider what you like, what motivates you and where you want to go in your career.” One way to identify your work values is to review a list of examples and rate them on a scale of one to ten. Then examine the highest-rated values, choose five and rank them in order of importance. Think of these values as those that you absolutely could not live without, with the first one being your highest priority.
Some examples include things like:
- Professional growth
How do I use work values to find my dream job?
Once you’ve identified which values are important to you, you’ll have a point of reference to evaluate future job offers. Take responsibility for your career satisfaction by researching the values of your current or prospective employer. Consider the organization’s mission statement, policies and company handbook. Networking and informational interviews are the best way to get an accurate picture of how an organization does business and treats employees. If you are interviewing for a position, don’t be afraid to ask probing questions. “Many companies host virtual recruiting events, where you can ask real employees about their organization’s values before you interview, says Cannata. In your interview, look for clues into the company’s values. Use the time to ask about the hiring manager’s leadership values and assess if they match or conflict with your own.” This process will help ensure that both the employer and role are a good fit before you accept a job offer.
Keep in mind that over the years, your values may change, so remain flexible. When you’re about to finish graduate school, your number one value might be a high salary to pay off those hefty student loans. While later in life, autonomy and creativity may move to the top of the list. So be sure to reexamine your values every few years.
Remember, just because you have the skillset for a particular career doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for you. Focus on finding satisfying work that aligns with your values, and you will be much more likely to achieve professional success.