I volunteer with a leadership program that is targeted towards sophomores in high school. Our session this past week was on values and more specifically, values as they tie to our careers. I initially had concerns about discussing such an important topic with 15 year olds – I mean, let’s be honest… most adults haven’t figured this stuff out. But, the sophomores loved it. And not only did they love it, but they had incredible conversations about the topic.
Which made me think… if values are an important career topic for high schoolers, then they are an even more important topic for undergraduates & young professionals. So let’s take a moment and talk values:
1. What are values?
Just like other buzz words, there are thousands of definitions of the word value. However, I heard a definition a few years ago that truly resonated with me – personal values are like an internal compass, consistently pointing you towards a true north in your life. In other words, your personal values are principles that assist you in making life decisions.
2. What are MY Values?
The most important step is to THINK about your values and commit to living them out every single day. A list of common values is listed at the top of this post. The best way I’ve found to START the process of identifying your values is to look at a common list and circle approximately 10 that resonate with you. Then think about what is truly important to you and what makes you happiest and try to shorten your list to 5 values. Then discuss the topic with family and friends and try to come up with 2 or 3 that are the MOST IMPORTANT VALUES. In other words, the principles that are most important to your life.
3. Values and Internships/First Jobs – A time to test congruency
Your internship or first professional position are the perfect time to a more in depth understanding of your personal values and to ensure that your actions are congruent to your values. This time will also be an opportunity for you to see how your personal values connect to the organization your serve. Look for positions that will allow you to integrate your personal values on a daily basis. And…. if it doesn’t work out, use it as a lesson to search for your next position or job opportunity.
4. Values & the rest of my Career
Alright, so this values stuff is starting to make sense. You’ve gained an appreciation for the principles that are most important in your life and this gives you a firm foundation for planning future career goals. Say that you’ve identified relationships, education and success as three key values in your life (yes, I’m being transparent here…these are my top 3 values). Then start looking for a job where you can live out these values on a daily basis. And remember that values are a lifelong process…but making a commitment to identifying and living out your values will help you find a job that not only makes you money, but also leaves you with true satisfaction.