Love your work by aligning your career with your values
Why it’s important to know your values
You probably hear a lot about your work or business being aligned with your values but what does this mean and why is it important?
Prior to becoming a coach, I just bumbled through life without really thinking about my values. I did what society expects – I went to college, got a job, fell into marketing and advanced up the career ladder. After many years I became disillusioned with my marketing career. I knew I was unhappy but couldn’t pinpoint the exact root of the problem. In hindsight, it was because my values had changed and my career was no longer in alignment with them.
What was important to me 20 years ago is no longer important now. And what’s important to me now wasn’t 20 years ago. Although I didn’t know anything about values then, at least not consciously. I just had an idea of what I liked and didn’t like about my work and about what I would look for in my next job.
But what actually ARE our values?
Values are things that are important to us and give us purpose. They are the foundations that drive most of our decisions in life and business albeit often unconsciously. They change over time too just like us and our priorities.
Why are values important in our career choice?
The effort, commitment and motivation that drives us to do a good job is directly related to the values we perceive in the job. Because our values give us purpose, they are also our motivators.
When we make a career choice, it’s often unconsciously determined by our values. For example you might decide to become a doctor or a nurse because helping people is important to you and helping people with their health fulfils this need. Or you may decide to become a lawyer because fairness and justice is important to you. You might decide to become an accountant because you value prestige, security and order. Or you might become a self-employed computer programmer because problem-solving, freedom and independence is important to you.
Common values include independence, freedom, making a difference, security, creativity, helping people, family time, health etc. My core values are independence, freedom, authenticity, creativity, being connected and making a difference although that’s not an exhaustive list – I have more.
What can happen if our career isn’t aligned with our values?
If our career isn’t aligned with our values, we feel unhappy (either consciously or unconsciously) or we get to a stage where we just start to question ‘Is this it?’ ‘Is this my life until I retire?’ ‘Shouldn’t there be more to life?’ Yet when we do something we love, something that we’re passionate about, we don’t feel like this, in fact we feel alive, excited and content.
Throughout my corporate marketing career, my values changed and were no longer in alignment with my role. However, I wasn’t consciously aware that this was happening. I just knew that I was no longer happy and fulfilled. Funny how our subconscious knows what’s right for us but we often ignore it.
When I first started working in marketing I loved the people contact, the finished piece of literature or successful event which satisfied my need for creativity, connection and achievement. As time went by, my experience grew and I took on more responsibility. I became more involved in strategy, planning, setting up and measuring campaigns and adding to the company’s bottom line. At first I was fulfilled doing this as it was a learning process and satisfied my need for continued professional development. It also satisfied my need for belonging.
However as the years went by my most important need was to feel that I was making a real difference. Yet the reality was that major decisions were made further up the management chain, artwork / designs were approved by my superiors and I began to feel like I was nothing more than a conduit between external design / web-development / print agencies and senior management. I felt stifled and unimportant. I was simply co-ordinating rather than making the difference I craved. I spent most of my days dealing with e-mails, setting up, measuring and analysing campaigns and doing lots of number crunching. These were all important aspects of my role, however the transition to digital meant that I spent more time at my desk and less time being creative or connecting with people face to face which were aspects of my role I had previously really enjoyed. I started to question what kind of an impact I was making and my sense of belonging started to diminish. I began to feel very lonely. It didn’t matter if changed jobs, I still felt the same. Once I figured out what was important to me (i.e. my values) I changed careers.
My coaching career incorporates all of my values. I work for myself and control my own work schedule (freedom and independence), I can be myself rather than adopting a corporate facade (authenticity), I make a positive difference in peoples’ lives (making a difference), I do my own marketing and branding (creativity) and I talk to people regularly (being connected).
How do we identify our values?
• On a sheet of paper write down 20 things that are really important to you in life and business. Then prioritise and narrow it down to five. These are your core values.
• Alternatively , if you need inspiration, search for a list of values online and then pick out 20 from the list. Then prioritise and narrow down to five.
Consider whether and how these values are a part of your career. If they aren’t then your career isn’t aligned with your values and you need to re-think your options. This might involve changing things within your current job, changing the job itself or completely changing your career.
Other factors you’ll need to consider in your career or business choice are what you are passionate about, what you’re good at and what there’s a demand for. If you can find something that incorporates these three factors then you will achieve a successful and fulfilling career or business.
Working through your values, passion / purpose and career or business ideas is an important and time-consuming process. To make sure you get the best results quickly, I would recommend working with a certified coach. For a FREE no-obligation Discovery Call, contact me at www.karenweldencoaching.com/contact/
To loving your work, loving your life, living your dreams.