Since I believe that leadership is an expression of our values, I have challenged myself to look at the many ways my core values can show up in the work I do.
Recently, I began a new job working at a non-profit that performs a number of important functions. My specific role is helping people living in subsidized housing achieve both educational and career goals, which I am excited to do! Excited to meet our clients and establish goals. Thrilled to start their journies. And ready to put my values into action.
Part of our thorough onboarding training has been meeting with various leaders within my division. Today we met with the vice president of our division, a woman who has worked in refugee and immigration services for a number of years. She spoke passionately about her work in the field, on the ground, with clients across a number of agencies, and how the work continues to energize her.
It was amazing to listen to a nonprofit career professional talk about her values. It resonated with me, as I continue to evaluate how my work evolves to impact people. Since I believe that leadership is an expression of our values, I have challenged myself to look at the many ways my values can show up in the work I do.
If you are considering changing careers or thinking about how to align your values to your current job, think about your core values and how they show up in the workplace. Then you can consider how to make changes so they can.
Understanding Your Core Values
If you want to align your values with your career, you need to start by exploring your values. From experience, it feels challenging to separate the work we do from the values that define who we are. Take some time to think about what motivates you and feeds your soul. According to Saundra Loffredo in Do Your Career and Work Values Align?, work core values are typically broken into three types:
- Intrinsic values are related to the intangibles about the career. These are the values that motivate you and help you feel fulfilled. Examples of intrinsic values are giving back to society and expressing your creativity.
- Extrinsic values relate to the tangible rewards derived from your career and your work environment. Some examples of extrinsic values are pay, working as part of a team and providing influence.
- Lifestyle values. Lifestyle values are a type of second-tier value. What you do for a career and where you work produces a certain type of lifestyle. The type of lifestyle you desire can help complete the picture of what you value. A few examples of lifestyle values include living in a big city, traveling extensively and living simply.
Elizabeth Houghton, in How to Align Your Career with Your Core Values to Be Happier, believes you should start asking yourself about what motivates you. As you consider how a new position will align with your values, ask yourself “if being in the shoes of certain roles would leave you feeling uncomfortable or fuel you to exercise your values and take charge of the situation.” I once thought I was motivated to take on positions that included supervision and manager responsibilities. I was wrong.
In My Own Experiences
As I began to look at what motivated me in the workplace, I found that this motivation to supervise others was external – it was expected from me, but it didn’t feel my soul.
In my own experience, I have had many opportunities to explore my values and consider new jobs. Some of these explorations have been more successful than others.
My intrinsic values have always included teaching others and serving the common good. My extrinsic values include serving the greater good and helping others create community. And my lifestyle values have typically included working around others in some sort of collegial environment.
Not all jobs have been as good a fit for me. I was encouraged to apply for training positions within a consulting firm, but the position followed a compliance training model rather than one based on motivational learning. Similarly, I’ve applied for jobs that have had significant administrative tasks, but were too far removed from serving others for the common good. And an entirely remote job would bore me, as an incredibly extroverted person.
Honestly, that is why it was thrilling to listen to our vice president speak about how her current position aligns with her values so positively. It has been years since I last heard a professional speak about the importance of value in the workplace. With so many people choosing to leave their jobs, business leaders should address how values show up through the work. Or at the very least, give opportunities to create a position that does better align with their employees’ values.
Moving Forward in My Values
As I’ve only held this job for two weeks, there will be more opportunities to explore how my values align. I plan to share when and how these values show up, to demonstrate more concrete examples when possible. And as with all of my jobs as shared through the blog, I plan to share when these values don’t align!
I certainly encourage all of you to look at how your values show up in your work. And if they don’t, consider asking yourself if they can or if you may need a new job. I’m happy to speak with you in person or virtually to help you explore what you can do next.