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Values and Why They Matter for Your Career

When you hate your job, feel stuck or frustrated and want to change career the chances are your values and your employer’s are in conflict.  Values are like shoes, most of the time you don’t have to give them much thought but if you find yourself in a situation where they’re out of place they will soon cause you pain, discomfort and maybe even embarrassment.  And while you might be able to struggle on for a while in ill-fitting shoes, or by removing them and walking barefoot, in the long-term you only expose yourself to more pain.  Similarly, if your work role does not fit in with your core values you will find it difficult to motivate yourself to continue and may feel frustrated, bored and even alienated from your work colleagues. If you start the countdown to five o’clock on Friday before you arrive at work on Monday then it may be because your values and your employer’s values aren’t a good fit.  In order to have a fulfilling career, your values need to be in harmony with your profession.  In fact, in a recent survey of Irish workers, 59% of people said that they would leave their job if the company values went against their beliefs.


So if we don’t spend much time thinking about our values until they are in conflict with our work situation then how can we identify what they are? Well, just as you have tried on several pairs of shoes to identify the most comfortable pair figuring out what your values are may require some exploration and effort. Your core values are what guide you to spend your time the way you do without fully realising why.  By developing a list of core values you will recognise what changes might be necessary in order to improve your work life.



One career coaching tool which can help is to list different areas of your life such as family, career or personal development and ask yourself what you consider most important in each area.  Under each heading write whatever words come to mind. When you can no longer think of any more words rank the words in order of how important each one is to you.  You now have a list of your core values in each area of life in order of importance.  If you find it difficult to think of words in the first place you could draw from a list like this one.

If you are more of a visual person you might like to create a collage from old magazines or a Pinterest board with images that reflect your values in particular areas of your life.


But when you are serious about making changes in your life or career then consulting a career coach can help to give you an outsider perspective on your current situation.


By identifying your core values you can begin to examine how your job does or does not support them and figure out whether it is time for a career change.  For example, if your core values include “leadership” and “growth” but your workplace currently doesn’t offer much opportunity for either then perhaps you can think about ways to create these opportunities.  While leaving a job might not be possible in the short-term, finding a way to fulfil those values in your existing role or outside of work while you plan your future career may be possible.  You could do this through volunteer work, signing up for an evening class or talking to others in roles that more closely match your values.


Knowing your core values, understanding what “makes you tick,” means that you are equipped to seek out the best opportunities to make it happen.  Knowing what you want is the first step towards getting it. Having a greater awareness of your core values means that you can understand why different aspects of your career or personal life feel more or less satisfying right now.  Like choosing an outfit so that you can wear your favourite pair of shoes, you can seek out job opportunities where your core values will shine leading to a happier and more fulfilling career.