How to Assess Your Career Values

Illustration of people with butterfly wings outside of office buildings, representing career values.
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When considering a new job or career, your career values count as one of the most important factors that will guide your choices. You'll also sometimes hear them referred to as "work values." 

Knowing what you value in a job and workplace can help you evaluate career options to consider and assist you with choosing a job that's the best fit for your values.

What Are Career Values?

Your career values represent the beliefs you have about what is important in your work, and what makes it meaningful to you.

Simply put, your career values are what steer and drive you in your professional career. These values will help when you decide on a potential company or position for employment. 

What Do You Want From a Job?

People look for different things in their jobs. Some crave prestige, while others seek a creative outlet. Still others want flexible hours and independence.

The list of desires can include earning a high income and meeting and interacting with people. Of course, the chance for advancement in the career field is also a primary driver of why people will choose any particular position.

Values vary greatly from person to person. What matters to one may mean little to another person. So, it is essential to understand your own unique value system.

Once you figure out what you value, you'll have the answer to what motivates you to do your best job, and you can use this knowledge to guide your employment choices.

Career Satisfaction

Some career theorists believe that how well a job or career satisfies our values should be the most important consideration when evaluating options.

These theorists posit that work which lines up with our values will be more meaningful, and we will be more likely to invest our energies to master the roles and achieve success. Most career experts recommend considering personality traits, interests and abilities in conjunction with values when making career choices.

Identifying Your Values

One way to identify your career values is to look at a list of examples and rate how much each of the items matters to you. Rate the list on a scale of one to ten. Then examine some of the highest-rated values and choose six to 10 that should have the greatest weight when considering career and alternatives.

You can also separate these descriptive terms into categories, such as who, what, where, and workload. Instead of a numerical ranking system, you may choose to rank the terms using:

  • Must have
  • Nice to have
  • OK not to have
  • Must not have

Whether you use a ranking system or buckets, the important thing is to have a clear sense of what matters most to you. Remember, this will be unique to you — don't get tripped up by thinking about what peers or family members prioritize.

Use CareerOneStop's Work Values Matcher to find careers that match your personal work values.

List of Possible Career Values

Some of the values you want and require in your work or career probably involve qualities and opportunities that enhance your life emotionally and intellectually. Achieving these values as part of your job or career might make you feel challenged, inspired, and fulfilled.

Some career or job values have to do more with the environment in which you spend a large proportion of your waking hours, and the conditions under which you perform your work.

While these values may not offer as much emotional fulfillment, they can make your work life easier to navigate, such as having a mentor, or easing financial stress, because you have job security.

The following list captures examples of some of these types of values:

  • Adventure
  • Autonomy
  • Avoiding stress
  • Building things
  • Camaraderie
  • Casual work environment
  • Challenge
  • Changing the world
  • Collaborating with others
  • Competition
  • Creating new things
  • Creativity
  • Diversity
  • Employee benefits
  • Exposure to beauty
  • Fast pace
  • Fun
  • Helping others
  • High income
  • High level of interaction with people
  • Incomebased on productivity
  • Influencing others
  • Intellectually demanding work
  • Job security
  • Location
  • Moral/spiritual fulfillment
  • Opportunity for advancement
  • Opportunity to lead
  • Opportunity to learn new things
  • Outlet for creativity
  • Physical activity
  • Pleasant work environment
  • Power
  • Prestige
  • Recognition
  • Risk-taking
  • Routine work
  • Seeing tangible results from work completed
  • Sharing ideas or information
  • Socialization
  • Solving problems
  • Status as an expert
  • Structure
  • Supportive management
  • Team membership
  • Time freedom
  • Travel
  • Variety of tasks
  • Work/life balance
  • Working alone
  • Working outside

You can also use this list to generate ideas for different types of jobs or positions to explore if you're in the midst of a job search, and flesh out your resume by adding a few in your resume's employment objective section and in your cover letter.

Key Takeaways

KNOWING YOUR WORK VALUES IS IMPORTANT. This can help you know when it's time to leave a job, how to pick between two jobs, and countless other career-related decisions. 

TRY EXERCISES TO DETERMINE YOUR VALUES. For instance, looking at examples of things that people value in a career — such as work-life balance, learning opportunities, the pace of the day, travel opportunities, and so on — can help crystalize what you prioritize the most.

YOUR CAREER VALUES ARE UNIQUE. Everyone will weigh various factors differently. And, at different times in your life, your own work values may shift.