Career Transitions: What are Your Current Work Place Values?

Anne Bryant, MA, LPC
www.annebryantcounseling.com
abccounseling@pobox.com
503-442-6392
Anne has thirty years of experience offering practical skills and support to people experiencing transitions in their careers and personal lives. Openings available for individual and group sessions.

Career Transitions: What are Your Current Work Place Values?

by Anne Bryant, MA, LPC

 

Are you trying to make a decision about what jobs to apply for, what types of companies or organizations to check out, or what your next career will be?  There are many parts to self-assessment that might be considered: your skills, interests, previous education and training, experience and temperament.  One important piece of the puzzle which may be overlooked is the answer to the question, “What do I want from work beside a paycheck?”

Many clients I meet in my practice are so worried about their precarious finances and so tired of job searching that the only criteria they apply to a possible job or employer is: “Will they hire me?”  Although I have empathy for those feelings, having been there myself, this is similar to getting engaged to someone “because he/she asked.” Of course you wouldn’t commit yourself without knowing a whole lot more about your own wants/needs/beliefs/values/hopes and expectations as well as those of the other party.  Now, your next employer isn’t going to vow to stick by you for better or for worse, and the odds are that the job isn’t going to be yours until death do you part, but it still pays to be careful about where you end up.

The better the match between your values and your employers’, the higher your job satisfaction will be. This also means you’ll likely be motivated to work hard and learn new things.  Although there are no guarantees, this attitude might be the one thing under your control that will help you advance and offer you a chance at illusory job security.

How does a person get clear about work values and priorities?  One option is to make a list of characteristics of two kinds of jobs from your past: those that you loved, and those that you loathed.  Ask yourself why?  Was it just the personalities involved or something else?  If you’ve never had a job you loved, describe the character of the negative experiences, and ask yourself, “What’s the opposite of these negative experiences at work?”  For example, if you were treated with disrespect or passed over for your contributions, the opposites would be respect and recognition.  What kind of recognition matters to you personally?  The corner office, your name on a parking spot, a big bonus, or a quiet compliment from someone whose work you admire?  Be as specific as possible in the way you describe what you want in your own mind, your journal, or even better, when you talk with a friend or co-worker. Hearing yourself speak about what you value reinforces your commitment to yourself.

According to an article by Randall S. Hansen, “These workplace values, concepts, and ideas that you hold dear have a direct impact on your satisfaction with your job, with your career, and even with your life.” http://www.quintcareers.com/workplace_values.html

Another approach, in the Hansen article link, offers a list of work values and a way to narrow the list down to a few ‘deal breakers’ that might become your personal yardstick for measuring opportunities.  The ‘deal breakers’ are those essential rewards and satisfactions that matter the most and that you are unwilling or unable to compromise.  Sometimes it’s difficult to prioritize these things because it seems we want them all equally.  If you are having trouble prioritizing, which will help you make better decisions, here is a unique website that can guide you: http://www.successonyourownterms.com/prioritizing-grid

This tool was first offered in What Color is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job Hunters and Career Changers by Richard Bolles (2011), who publishes an updated version every year. When you use this tool on line, you can either enter the work values offered there, which I find too general, or you can enter your own.  For example, instead of the value “work as a contribution,” you may substitute “work that promotes sustainability.” By way of a clever comparison technique, the tool enables you to learn which of your values are truly your top priorities.

How does this apply to your job search or career change?  Once you are clear about your work values, you can use them to guide the questions you could ask when you’re networking or interviewing for information.  They’ll help you answer interview questions like, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”  They can help you when you are asked, “Do you have any questions?” especially when you tie your values to the mission of the organization. Ideally you research the employer in advance and learn about their mission and core values.

Other career assessment tools, such as the Strong Interest Inventory, show patterns formed earlier in your life that are fairly stable over time. Work values change as you grow older, just as your ideals may change from when you were in your teens or 20’s until now. Clarity about your current work values will not by itself answer all your questions about what type of job or career you might pursue next. However, it could help to use these tools if you are feeling restless or bored with your present work, or if you are trying to make decisions about your next move.

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