Your Values Compass

How What You Treasure Can Influence What You Do Next in Your Work Life

As part of my recent focus on the importance of evaluating the health of your career at the beginning of a new year, I thought it might be helpful to showcase the four ways your values can help or hinder that process.

Values, of course, are those intangible things that you treasure in your work life, such as autonomy, passion, purposefulness, fairness, and balance. There are many, many values that impact your work life, but only you can determine which are important to you and how highly you would rank them, which is why I strongly advocate that every professional conduct a periodic values assessment. Values shift over time as we age, which is why it’s important not just to identify them, but to do so every few years.

But as important as determining what we value is the need to rank them. Knowing what your top five or ten values are helps you to honor them in your decision-making. For example:

  1. Know When to Leave: Once you’ve assessed and ranking your workplace values, you can use them as a measuring stick to help you identify when or if it’s time to move on to another career opportunity. Once your top three to five values are no longer fulfilled in a job, it’s almost certainly time to start planning your next job search. Failing to do so may lead to burn-out. In this sense, your values are an early indicator of a possible lack of career wellness. Let’s say that you discover that your top three values are fairness, respect, and autonomy, yet at work you consistently experience a lack in all three. This would be a clear signal that may need to alter your relationship with your boss, change your current role in the firm, or start looking for a new company.
  2. Determine What Kind of Company to Look for Next: If you take the time to define what you value and rank order your most important values, you have essentially created a checklist for yourself of key traits to hone in on as you scout for you next employer. If you value innovation, for example, then you will be much more likely to be satisfied with your next job for a longer period if you deliberately seek out a company with a track record of innovation. If you value work-life balance, say, and want a virtual job in order to limit travel, then it may make sense to check out a list like this one to help you focus your search on firms who routinely hire folks in these types of positions.
  3. Pinpoint What Values a Prospective Employer Espouses: As you research potential companies to target for your next employment jaunt, you will find it helpful to review evidence of their values. While these are sometimes advertised on About or Career pages in an overt manner, they are often also showcased in annual reports, company brochures, LinkedIn pages, and internal documents. If you connect with one or more current or recent employees, you can almost always determine what values a company publishes as important by asking this question, after you take the time to invest in relationship-building, of course.
  4. Evaluate Whether a Target Company Is Honoring Their Values: A second question to ask, though, is how well the company lives up to their published values. A company can say they value whatever they want, but the proof is in the pudding – what do their actions, decisions, and financial investments prove? Here again, asking astute questions of current or recent employees will help you to determine if there is a values misalignment in a company. You can also look for evidence in their Career pages. If they say they value work-life balance, for example, what evidence of that value do you see in the work hours or schedules they expect their employees to uphold or the benefits they do or do not offer them?

Your values are only one of ten areas of your work life that I suggest evaluating each year, but they are a great place to start. Free values assessments are available on the internet and in many career-related books. If you haven’t already assessed yours, start now.

Do you need help sifting through your values or determining how they impact your stay-or-go career decision-making? Check out my proprietary Annual Career Check-Up for a structure, guidance, and accountability in evaluating the health of your work life in 2019 and beyond. It’s on sale for 20% off through the end of February 2019.

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