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Using Values to Define Your Career

Updated: Sep 28, 2023

Defining your values for your career success

Identifying and defining your values will help you find a fulfilling career. While I always recommend a coach to help you draw out all your values and help you define them, here’s a step-by-step approach to using your values to define your career.

Step 1: Define your values. Think about what is truly important to you in the workplace, from specifics of the role to workplace behaviors, to type of company. Role specific values may include independence, flexibility, and variety. Workplace behavior values may include integrity, feeling trusted, and no politics. You may want a big or small company or a company which fosters a culture of learning or a company where you can work across countries.

Once you identify your values in the workplace, also consider what home values will impact your work (i.e., Must be remote work? Flexibility in hours?) Now you are ready to define exactly what each value means to you in a stream of consciousness including all the things that come to your mind. Example:

Variety: Working on different things / working on projects that cross different areas / never being bored / wanting to meet different people in the company through the work / having a broad scope of work / feeling energized by the work / bringing value in different areas of the business.

After you’ve defined ALL of your values. Then go back and read what you wrote and determine which of the phrases resonates the most. For me, variety means bringing value in different areas of the business. All of the definitions are true, but that one really sticks out and resonates the most. When you are reading your stream of consciousness, if another thought comes to mind as the most resonant definition, add it and highlight it.

Step 2: Rank your values. Rank the most important values (5) to least important (1). Draw a line between the values that you know you will not compromise on and the ones you are willing to be a little more flexible. For example, I would never compromise on my value of working for a great boss which means a boss who listens well and guides in a way that is supportive. But I was willing to compromise on my commute time (when I was commuting) which was 30 minutes or less. I would have taken a fantastic job if the commute was 45 min v. 30 min. Drawing that line will prevent you from interviewing and accepting yet another job that will frustrate you because your values aren’t being respected.

Step 3: Translate values to hard and soft skills. Hard skills are those you learned in a particular field (i.e., Tableau, software coding, data analysis). Soft skills are important in any job (i.e., empathy, stakeholder management, proactive communication). Now take your values and definition and align to hard and soft skills. Hard skills are easier to define. If it’s hard to figure out what soft skills are relevant without a list – Google soft skills and you will come up with a huge list to work from.

Here is an example of translating your values to hard and soft skills:

Hard and soft skills to help define the value your career

Soft: Resourceful; Detail oriented; Complex problem solving; Stakeholder alignment and management; Executive presence

Step 4: Dream using your values and skills. Start with the Bureau of Labor Statistics which list nearly every job and career, to hunt for types of careers that interest you. Don’t limit because of resources, needing to go back to school, or any other reason. That’s why it’s called “dreaming.” Pick out jobs which excite you. Then conduct additional searches on LinkedIn to read job descriptions and Google to find articles about the jobs you chose. You may find other roles that excite you as well!

Step 5: Narrow down the jobs you chose. Talk to people about the careers you are excited about to understand what that career is like and whether it aligns with your values. How do you talk to people? Your have friends. Your friends have friends. Reach out and ask who they know! And if you don’t know someone, reach out on LinkedIn explaining you are considering transitioning careers and you’d love to understand the person’s career trajectory and the specific function you are interested in moving into. Some won’t respond. That’s okay. You only need one. The only caveat: if you talk to someone who has a negative impression of a role, or the role doesn’t sound exactly like you believed, make sure you talk to others. Titles for one job, such as Business Process, may be vastly different depending on the company which has such a role. So, talking to many people will help you understand what each role truly encompasses.

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