Clarifying Your Work Values Leads to Job Satisfaction

An Essential Piece of the Career Planning Puzzle

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What Are Work Values?

Before we can talk about work values, we must first discuss what values are in general. They are the beliefs and ideas that are important to you and which you use to guide your actions. Examples of these core values include honesty, service, self-respect, respect for others, peace, and success.

Your work values are the subset of your beliefs and ideas that are related to your occupation or job.

These principles are an important part of who you are. Therefore you must identify what they are before you choose a career or decide whether to accept a job offer.

The Difference Between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Work Values

We all have both intrinsic and extrinsic work values. Intrinsic values have to do with the actual tasks involved in practicing a particular occupation or doing a job. They include helping others, doing challenging work, and being a leader.

Extrinsic values are concerned with the by-products of an occupation or job. In other words, they refer to what you get out of your work, rather than what you put into it. High earnings, recognition, and job security are examples of extrinsic values.

How to Identify Your Work Values

Since ignoring your work values will to diminish your chances of ultimately being satisfied with your career or job, it is imperative that you identify them early on in the career planning process.

To do this, you will use a self-assessment tool called a work value inventory.

Although it may sound complicated, it is just a list of values that you simply have to rank by order of importance to you. For example, the instructions on one of these inventories may tell you to rate each value on a scale of 1 to 10, giving a "1" to those values that are most important to you and a "10" to those that are least important.

Alternatively, you may have to arrange a list of work values in order of how much they mean to you, with the ones at the top being the most significant.

If you are working with a career development professional such as a career counselor or career development facilitator, he or she can administer a work value inventory. You can also take one on your own simply by ranking a list of values, like the ones listed below. Then you will have to match the values at the top of your list with careers that satisfy them. O*Net Online has an excellent tool you can use to search for occupations that are suitable for those with particular work values.

Even within the same occupation, not every job will satisfy your work values. When evaluating a job offer, make sure your prospective employer's corporate culture is in line with what you find important. For example, if collaboration is something you feel strongly about, steer clear of a job that requires you to work without others' input. 

Examples and Definitions of Work Values

Here are examples of items that could appear on a work value inventory, along with a definition of each one. When reading this list, think about how important each value is to you.

  • Achievement: doing work that yields results
  • Independence: working and making decisions on your own
  • Recognition: receiving attention for your work
  • Relationships: working alongside coworkers as well as helping others
  • Support: having supportive management
  • Working Conditions: being in an environment that has good conditions
  • Autonomy: receiving little or no supervision
  • Helping Others: providing assistance to individuals or groups
  • Prestige: having high standing
  • Job Security: a high probability that one will remain employed
  • Collaboration: working with others
  • Helping Society: contributing to the betterment of the world
  • Compensation: receiving adequate pay
  • Utilizing Your Skills and Background: using your education and work experience to do your job
  • Leadership: supervising/managing others
  • Creativity: using your own ideas
  • Variety: doing different activities
  • Challenge: performing tasks that are difficult or new to you
  • Leisure: having adequate time away from work
  • Recognition: receiving credit for achievements
  • Artistic Expression: expressing one's artistic talents
  • Influence: having the ability to affect people's opinions and ideas

What Traits Should You Consider In Addition to Your Work Values?

It is important to note that, while your values play an essential role in career choice, you should not consider them in isolation. You must also look at your other traits including personality typeinterests, and aptitudes.

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