Identifying Your Work Values

An Essential Piece of the Career Planning Puzzle

Business woman getting advice from her boss
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What Are Work Values

Before we can talk about work values, we must discuss what values are in general. They are the beliefs and ideas that are important to you and guide your actions. For example you may believe that you should always be honest, go out of your way to help others and be independent. Your work values are simply those principles that have to do with your occupation or job. They are such an important part of who you are that if you don't take them into account when you choose a career or a employment situation, you have little chance of finding job satisfaction.

Clarifying your work values is, therefore, essential. They are both intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic values have to do with the actual tasks involved in practicing a particular occupation or doing a job. Extrinsic ones are concerned with the by-products of an occupation or job. Examples of your intrinsic values could be helping others, doing challenging work and being a leader. Earning a lot of money, getting recognition for what you do and having job security are examples of extrinsic values.

How to Identify Your Work Values

To identify which work values are important to you, you will use a self assessment tool called a work value inventory. It may sound complicated, but it is simply a list of values that you must rank by order of importance to you. For example, the instructions 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 be asked to list a series of work values in order of importance.

career development professional such as a career counselor or career development facilitator can administer a work value inventory but you can also take one on your own. For example, you can rank the values on the list below.

 Use the results to identify appropriate career choices by matching your work values to those involved with different occupations. O*Net Online has an excellent tool that allows you to search for occupations that are suitable for those with certain work values. Since values may differ from job to job as well, you should also take them into account when you are deciding whether to accept a job offer. It is important to note, that while your values play an important role in career choice, they should not be considered in isolation. You also need to look at your personality type, interests and aptitudes.

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.

  • 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
  • Recognition: receiving attention for your work
  • Compensation: receiving adequate pay
  • Achievement: doing work that yields results
  • 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
  • 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

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