What are my values?

It’s important to know what’s important to you as you enter the world of work.

What you will learn

  • What values are and how these define you
  • What your own values are through helpful tasks
  • How to use your values to decide on your next step
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When it comes to talking about your career, strengths and skills are often the most common terms you’re asked to think about. But do you have clearly defined values?

It can be tricky to understand the differences between these three terms but, fundamentally, values are things that you choose to believe are important to the way you go through life. 

Your values matter – not just in your working life – in your personal life too. The advantage of this is that you can draw on almost any experience you’ve had to help you identify what yours are. 

How to use your values to your benefit 

Knowing your values is so important because, when you do, you can consciously match your behaviours to align with what you believe to be right. When your choices and behaviours don’t align with your personal values, things will feel wrong and others will notice that you lack integrity. This can be particularly detrimental when you’re applying for jobs. 

Take creativity for example. If you value being creative, but you work in a role that’s tightly structured, are you likely to feel unfulfilled and frustratedSimilarly, if being the best at something new isn’t a driving force for taking it on, will being around highly competitive colleagues energise you? 

By reflecting on your experiences, you’ll start to see that your values can really help you find job satisfaction. When you know what your values are, you will always have a basis upon which to make choices. For example, about whether a job is suitable for you, whether you should take a promotion, or whether you should be open-minded or fixed about a situation that’s arisen. 

How to define your values: task 

A great way of starting to identify your values is to look back on previous situations in your life, identifying times when you felt happy about how things were going and optimistic about the future.  

With this mind, spend some time thinking of the following three situations. It helps to write your answers out. Try to think exactly what it is about these situations that you relate to. Repeat each one as often as you like with different scenarios to help you identify why these things matter to you. 

Think about your dream occupation

  • If you could have any career – without having to worry about income, childcare, or other constraints – what would you choose to do? 
  • Who (if anyone) would you be working with? 
  • What other factors make this the ideal job for you?

Think of the time when you felt happiest

  • What were you doing? 
  • Was anyone else involved? Who? 
  • What other factors make this one of your happiest times? 

Think about something you would change about yourself 

  • What would it be? 
  • What external factors would change if you made this change in yourself? 
  • What other factors make this something you want to change? 

Using your answers, try to identify potential values. Aim for around 10. 

Some of these might be self-explanatory. If your happiest times centre around experiences with your family, one of your values is likely to be ‘family-orientation’. Or, if your happiest times have involved laughing until you can’t breathe, you’ll likely have chosen this because you value ‘humour’. 

Others may be slightly trickier to uncover. For example, if your dream job is to be a freelance writer, you will likely value discipline because you’ll have to self-motivate yourself through tasks. Similarly, if being more helpful in your town is something you’ve said you’d like to change about yourself, this might be because you value ‘community’ or ‘kindness’. 

Prioritise your top values 

Using your answers to the previous questions, write down around 10 values you’ve identified as being important to you. This next step is tricky as you’ll have to reflect quite deeply on your personal experiences. However, this will give you practice is making choices that satisfy your core values in future. 

Begin to compare the first two values, asking yourself which you would choose if you could only carry one forward. Continue doing this till you reach the bottom of your list, comparing each value as you go. Your list will then be in the correct order, starting with what you believe to be the most important value. 

It’s important to note that your values will change over time as you take on new roles and responsibilities. It’s a good idea to refresh your values every so often to make sure they’re in alignment with what is most important to you right now. 

By considering your values as you approach difficult decisions, you will feel more confident in your choices. Acting with your values will bring clarity to situations where you may be struggling to make a choice. 

Making value-based choices gets easier with time and, although this is tricky at first, making choices that feel right to you will make things a lot less difficult in the future. 

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