It occurred to me recently that I bang on about “values” a lot… but I’m not sure I’ve ever provided any additional context or explanation.
If you’re feeling stuck or unfulfilled in your career… or indeed in any part of your life… it’s generally because whatever you’re doing is not aligned with your values.
So… what does this mean?
Well… your values are those things you prioritise, the things that are most important to you. And yes, the emphasis on the word “most” is intended. Why? Because we all value many, many different things… but there are only a handful of things that are most important for you.
And, the thing is, when you know what’s most important to you, you can design a career that aligns with your priorities… which in turn will deliver greater meaning and satisfaction to your working life.
Working this out in my life was a game changer. I had what looked like a successful corporate career… but I was unfulfilled and unmotivated. And, I just couldn’t work out why… it was beyond frustrating.
You see, my top values include “flexibility” and “freedom”… it’s very important to me to work how, when, where and with whom I want. With hindsight it makes total sense why the structured corporate environment just wasn’t the right fit for me.
The key to unlocking career clarity is knowing your core values
When you’re facing big or tough decisions about your future… Do you stay where you are? Do you accept an opportunity on offer? Is it time for a complete change?… it can be difficult to know which options to choose. Uncertainty about the potential outcome/s can add to the sense of anxiety and risk.
Over recent years, research has shown that aligning your work with your personal values improves your job satisfaction, motivation and overall success. And this has become even more so as we transition into this post-pandemic world.
Research by Gartner in 2022 found the pandemic has been a catalyst causing employees to ask questions like… “What makes me happy and whole? What truly satisfies me? Where have I given away too much of myself for little return?”.
When you take the time to understand your answers to these and other similar questions, you can identify what matters most for you and identify your non-negotiables… the things you absolutely cannot compromise on, no matter what. And suddenly your decision making starts to become a whole lot clearer.
How to identify your top values and align them to your career
1. REFLECT ON MEMORABLE, HAPPY TIMES
Think back to your jobs or projects from your past where you felt a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction. Where were you? What were you doing? What makes it so memorable? Ask yourself, “What about these experiences made me happy? What aspects were most important to me? From your answers identify anything that pops up more than once and the common trends that underpin these experiences. Your values will be found in these repeated moments or feelings.
2. TAKE SOME ONLINE ASSESSMENTS
It can be tough to narrow things down when you care about a lot of different things. There are some good options of online assessments available that can help you identify your core values. Personal Values Assessment is a great free option. Gyfted is another free tool… they have a specific work values test which is useful. These assessments are designed to help you identify what you find most important in life and work.
3. UNCOVER THEMES, IDENTIFY YOUR VALUES
With all the information you’ve collected from your reflections and assessments, make a list of the top themes and trends that you’ve uncovered. Think about what these mean to you as they will be the things that matter most for you. If you haven’t already done so, prioritise the values you’ve uncovered to highlight your top 5 values. For each one write personalised description of exactly what this value means for you.
4. ASSESS YOUR CURRENT ALIGNMENT
So now… you’ve identified your values and it’s time to assess how these are being addressed (or otherwise!) in your current role. How do the top 5 values you’ve identified with your current job or career objectives. If there is some misalignment, is there something within your control or influence you can do to address these. If not, what might the logical next steps be for your career? How will you use your values to identify areas where you can pivot your current role or consider other career opportunities that might align more closely what’s most important for you.
5. USE YOUR VALUES AS A DECISION MAKING GUIDE
Your personal values should become a living document for you and a key factor in making important career decisions. Before accepting a job offer or making a career change, evaluate how the opportunity aligns with your core values. Ask yourself questions such as, “Will this job allow me to utilise my top strengths and skills? Will it provide opportunities for personal and professional growth? Does the company’s mission and culture align with my values?”
Don’t be afraid to uncover what truly matters to you – it could be the key to unlocking the right next steps for your career. Need some help to work out your core professional values so you’re in a position to make better career decisions? Get in touch, I’d love to help you work it out.