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Career Values: How To Determine Them

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated June 29, 2021

Guide Overview

What are career values and why are they important?Types of career valuesHow to find a job that supports your career values

Guide Overview

Determine your career values

While searching for a new job or career, many job searchers fail to consider their career values. Have you ever felt unhappy in a job? Felt unsure or anxious about a career path? Find yourself changing jobs or careers frequently? It may be that your career values are not being met or are in conflict because they play an important role in how you perform and advance in a job or career.

Before you can make a decision about a new job or career, you should know what your career values are. This guide teaches you how to identify your career values. By explaining what career values are, why they're important, and giving examples and definitions of career values, you'll learn how to find a job that supports your career values.

What are career values and why are they important?

Career values, also called work values, are personal ideals, motives, and beliefs that help you identify what’s most important in your professional career. They are what motivate you to work and contribute to your overall work satisfaction and success. Career values are also the personal qualities and principles that guide your conduct at work.

Career values vary by person but go beyond salary and other compensation. For some people, being able to express creativity and innovation in a job may be important. For others, having a lucrative or prestigious job may be the goal. For another person, feeling like they are an integral part of the business is key.

Your career values may change as you mature, depending on your personal and professional experiences. A job that allows you to help people may matter to you as a 20-something right out of college, but as a 40-something father, you may prefer a job that pays well.

Businesses and companies also have work values that contribute to the culture. Organization work values guide strategic plans, help define acceptable behavior, and influence hiring and firing decisions. Employers prefer to hire candidates who fit within the organization’s culture and share their values.

According to an interview with Glassdoor’s President and COO, Christian Sutherland-Wong, “Job seekers want to be paid fairly but they too want to work for a company whose values align with their own and whose mission they can fully get behind.” It’s important that a person’s career values align with their job and the company. When an employer’s career or work values coincide with your own, you’re more likely to be happier and more productive increasing job stability and satisfaction.

Unaligned career values may lead to career dissatisfaction resulting in a decrease in productivity. For employees, working a job that goes against or ignores values can result in unhappiness, confusion, and discouragement. For employers, the organization’s culture may be affected resulting in low performance and declining work relationships.

Types of career values

There are three main types of career values: intrinsic, extrinsic, and lifestyle. They are explained in depth below:

Intrinsic

Intrinsic values relate to how the actual tasks involved with performing the duties of a job or career make you feel. They’re intangible values because they are controlled by you, based on your own efforts, and are what drive and fulfill you. Intrinsic career values are what you put into the work. Some common intrinsic career values are:

  • Relationships: involve the ability to develop and maintain beneficial relationships with coworkers, managers, or customers. Also includes engaging and collaborating with people.
  • Support: involves the ability to receive and offer support to customers, colleagues, and management. Also includes working within an environment you feel is supportive.
  • Helping others: involves the ability to help individuals and groups and work towards the betterment of the world.
  • Creativity: involves the ability to be innovative and artistic in performing work duties and tasks.

Learn more: Animator Career Overview

  • Challenging: involves the ability to perform new or difficult tasks or devise new solutions.
  • Variety: involves the ability to perform different duties and activities at work. May include not having a routine schedule or set of activities.
  • Integrity: involves the ability to be trustworthy and honest and work in an environment where honesty and transparency are the norms.

Extrinsic

Extrinsic values are what you get out of the work that you do. They’re tangible because they controlled by external forces — in this case, the employer. Extrinsic career values typically relate to financial rewards but also include social perks that may come with a certain occupation. Some common extrinsic career values are:

  • Compensation/salary: relate to the ability to receive sufficient pay for work performed.
  • Autonomy: relate to the ability to perform one’s duties as they see fit, receiving limited supervision if any.
  • Working conditions: relate to the ability to work in an environment that you’re comfortable and satisfied in.
  • Job security: relate to the assurance that you will remain employed for the long term.

Learn more: Glassdoor’s 2021 Best Places to Work

  • Prestige: relate to the ability to have a high social or professional standing.
  • Recognition: relate to the ability to be acknowledged for your work.

Lifestyle

Lifestyle values relate to how and where you want to live and how you spend your time away from work. They relate strongly to your intrinsic and extrinsic career values. Common lifestyle career values include:

  • Location: refers to whether you enjoy living and working in a rural or suburban area or prefer the city life.

Learn more: Jobs in New York 

  • Homeownership: refers to whether you want to own a home and if you can afford to buy one.
  • Work/life balance: refers to whether you have adequate time away from work to explore your hobbies or spend time with family and friends.
  • Climate: refers to whether you enjoy are living and working in a warm or cold locale.
  • Travel: refers to whether you can afford to travel and how frequently.

Career values are sometimes further divided into the following three categories:

  1. Work environment
  2. Work content
  3. Work relationships

How to find a job that supports your career values

Now that you have an understanding of what career values are and why they are important, it’s time to start developing your career plan. Following these four steps will help you develop a career plan based on your career values, which can increase your career success and satisfaction:

Step 1: Make a list of your career values. Then narrow it down to your top 10, by ranking your values in order of importance. These are the career values that are the most important to you.

To start your list, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are the values that make work meaningful to you? These are your intrinsic career values.
  • What are the values that make work rewarding to you? These are your extrinsic career values.
  • What are your personal values about how you spend your free time? These are your lifestyle values.

If you find yourself at a standstill, there are several free value assessments available online to assist you in identifying your career values. CareerOneStop, sponsored by the US Department of Labor, is a great start. It has career values, interests, and skills assessments.

Step 2: Make a list of your skills, goals, and work experience.

Reflect on the jobs and extracurricular activities you’ve had or participated in.

  • What were your duties and responsibilities? What did you like about these jobs or activities?
  • Was there anything about these jobs that made you uncomfortable or unhappy?
  • What are your short-term and long-term career goals?
  • What do you need to do to achieve these goals?

Step 3: Research careers and jobs that match your values, skills, goals, and work experience.

The following tips can help you in your research:

  • Search job listings and read company reviews on Glassdoor.
  • Ask friends and family about open positions they may be aware of.
  • Ask friends and family about the companies they work for or used to work for.
  • Ask employers about their values during job interviews.

Step 4: Begin applying to and interviewing with the companies that share your values.

  • Update your resume and cover letter to reflect your values and those of the companies you are applying to.
  • Develop and practice your responses to questions related to your values.
  • Don’t forget to ask organizations about their values during the interview process.
  • Continue to invest in and develop your career values. As you progress along in your career, what matters to you may change. Reassess your values from time to time.

Step 5: Consider working with a career advisor, coach, or program to help you further identify your career values and find jobs that align with your values and goals.

  • For example, Career Strategist, Jade Chapman, helps people align their careers with their gifts or skills, passion, and purpose.

Finding a career that conforms to your values can increase your job satisfaction and overall happiness. Taking the time to identify your career values can mean the difference between a long and meaningful professional career and one filled with jobs that are unfulfilling or cause unhappiness.

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