As a career coach, I come face to face with people at all different stages of their professional life. Whether they’re onboarding into a new role, engaging in outplacement support, or looking to transition into a new career, they all have one thing in common – they want their work to be meaningful to them.
While not everyone knows how to express this desire, I see it manifesting in a multitude of ways. Of course, what makes one role meaningful to one person, may make it a drudgery for another. What it all comes down to is values.
Understanding your values is crucial to career success
We all have things that matter to us. Some things matter more than others and what matters to me might not matter to you. These are our values, whether we’re consciously thinking about them or not.
If you would like to explore values a little more and put a name to some of the things you value in your professional and personal life, my eBook, Career Clarity: How to Find Career Fulfilment can help you uncover this further.
It’s important to know your values, because it allows you to examine an organisation’s values to see where they overlap with your own. Remember, knowing your values is not about looking for a perfect values fit with any given organisation – unless you start your own business, you are unlikely to find this – it’s about understanding how the values of an organisation align with yours as much as possible, how they complement each other and what they look like in action.
Values matter at every step of your career
Just as over time your values might shift and you may need to re-examine them, it’s important that you examine the values of your organisation at various stages.
Whilst it may be obvious, while you’re in the midst of the job search, that you need to be looking out for an organisation with values that align to your own, it’s important at many other points in your career too.
- During the job search – do your research to understand what an organisation’s values are and think about how you believe those values should look in action.
- Throughout onboarding – this process should have some of their values in action and on clear display for you. Just because you’ve secured the job doesn’t mean you should let your guard down, so keep watch and ensure the organisation’s actions and onboarding processes align with your values.
- During your time with the organisation – as you go through the highs and lows of your time with an organisation, see how their values play out in different ways.
- During offboarding and after you’ve left – an organisation’s true colours will be on display during offboarding and beyond. Understanding what certain values look like in play can help you to make great career decisions further down the road.
How to go about identifying values in action
A common value spouted by organisations is that of treating their teams ‘like a family’. This is a great example to use to understand how values look in the real world.
Using this example, you can ask yourself a few questions:
- What kind of family? Is it a nurturing family where support is available? Is it a toxic family? Are they inclusive? Is it an equal family? Is it a competitive family?
- When someone needs to leave ‘the family’ are they bitter? Or are they supportive?
- Does everyone in the organisation mention that they love being part ‘of the family’ on the surface but when you get deeper, no one displays any behaviour aligned with this value?
- To what extent is this value expressed by the organisation and recognised on an ongoing basis?
While these questions might be specific to this value, it’s easy to use this as an example to pick apart any value and understand what it looks like in action.
When it comes to any value, stories of it playing out in everyday organisational life should be commonplace.
Recently, we helped an organisation to build a recognition program, where the organisation encouraged employees to look out for when their coworkers were behaving in ways that aligned with the core values. They nominated each other anonymously and, at the end of the month, they would be publicly recognised. The stories from this program accumulated over time.
This is organisational folklore.
When you’re being interviewed for an organisation, probe further to understand how values are playing out in real situations. If the organisation is instilling their values on a deep level, they should have plenty of stories to tell!
Want to get career advice delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up to my Career Tips newsletter so you can plan your next move.