Whenever you hear the term “values” come up in a work context, you usually hear it coming up in relation to “corporate values.” What is the bottom line for the company? Who are we? How do we want to be perceived in our market?
Who are we kidding? Corporations do not have values like people do. Your core values help you identify what is important to you in your life and guide you to make choices at work and in your personal relationships. Having clarity on what your core values are will help you to make focused, clear decisions that open up opportunities for you to do impactful work in your current place of employment or find another path.
What are core values? They are what make you true to yourself. The code that you live by. You may or may not be conscious of the core values that exist in your everyday life. But once you start identifying and naming your core values they can be a powerful tool. They provide insight and help you understand why you make the decisions that you do, and how you can seek out opportunities in life that align with them.
Core values are personal to you. You may not have the same core values as your coworkers, significant others, or your clients. However, we all use them to seek work options, develop relationships and build our social world regardless of whether we are aware of them or not. Let’s take an example of how this may come up. You are in the job market looking for your next move. You receive an offer from two different firms. One has enviable financial incentives, higher than average billable hour requirements, opportunity for growth and profit sharing but is not as prestigious a firm. One has average billable hour requirements, flexible work schedule, great benefits package, excellent reputation in the legal community, but low employee retention. You have two choices on how to decide which job is right for you. Most people will look at the external factors like, what do others think? What will each opportunity provide to you, or how you will you be perceived by others in one job vs. the other? A more nuanced approach would be to see which job aligns with your core values. What is important to you in the workplace? Maybe it’s the opportunity to be creative or inquisitive, leadership opportunities, learning and personal development, consistency for your day to day tasks or time with family. Find some quiet place to think and write down core values that you have. Answer the following questions to prompt you.
What must you have in your life to feel fulfilled?
Think about your ideal work situation. What core values are being venerated?
Think of an important moment in your life that was moving or sentimental. What was happening? Who was there? What core values were celebrated in that moment?
What do your friends and family say about you? What are things that you do or habits that you have that drive them up the wall? What core values come up for you in these situations?
Think about a time when you have been frustrated or angry. Was there a value that was not being honored in that situation?
Now that you have your list of core values in writing, take time to reflect and refine your list over time. Developing an awareness of when your life choices align with your core values help you to make informed decisions that lead to fulfilling life moments.