Have you ever done a job you didn’t care about? Honestly?
I have. I didn’t always hate them. Some were just good fun, some were really interesting, but I didn’t always feel truly motivated or connected to them.
Invariably, though I tried my best, I chose not to stay as long in those jobs compared to the ones I did care about.
In those cases it has been for a variety of different reasons which, for me, often come back to the theme of community. Whether that be supporting local people during a crisis, or creating content that aims to give a voice to those experiencing certain challenges within our industry.
These are the jobs I stick with, because when I come into work in the morning I think ‘this needs to be done’, and when I go to bed at night I think ‘what I achieved today was important’.
Basically, it makes me better at my job!
I call it Community, but for you it is probably something different.
Maybe it’s inspiring, educating, solving a problem, answering a question, driving change, learning, or discovering something… The possibilities are endless.
Let's unpack some reasons it’s important to align your personal values with work:
This is where you find your tribe! Your personal friends are often friends due to similar interests, right? You love the same music or the same food, and care about similar stuff… It’s the same with work relationships. You’ll find better bonds with your colleagues when you share a true passion for what you’re doing. Better bonds mean better teamwork and collaboration, as well as enhanced enjoyment of your role day in, day out.
Your progression. You’re likely to work harder, communicate better and contribute your best ideas when you’re passionate about what you do. Leadership will recognise this. Not only will your hard work and creativity be rewarded, but stronger lasting relationships with a brand are often formed when it’s clear that the employees values align closely with those of the business.
Confidence and wellbeing. Poor alignment between work and values can lead to dissatisfaction, burnout, and lower performance and success which impacts on our self belief. Lower confidence can bring down our long term goals in work and life. For your mental health in the long run, it’s best to consider whether your career aligns with what you love and care about, and remember that you deserve one that does.
Haven’t nailed down your key values? Here’s how:
Let's go back to basics… How do we actually figure out what our personal values are?
This can be easier said than done, especially for young people and those at the start of their professional careers. We haven’t all been lucky enough to experience a lightbulb moment where we step into a job or a project and realise ‘this is it!’
It’s important to note here that you don’t have to have all the answers, and that your key values can be something that changes and evolves over time. However, if you feel ready to dig down and identify what’s most important to you, here are some tips:
Think about people you admire.
Role models or those who have inspired you will often be an example of values which are important to you personally. For instance if it’s an author's value might be creativity or inspiring others, if it’s an activist then it might be justice, or if it’s some kind of healthcare professional or carer then maybe the value is healing and helping others. This is a great place to start, as almost everyone has a role model of some kind, and has experienced the feeling of wanting to do what they do.
Reflect on your experiences.
The ups and the downs, your best and worst moments can provide a lot of clarity. What’s something you’ve failed at because your heart wasn’t in it? This might help with the process of elimination. What’s something you’ve succeeded at or overcome challenges in? This is clearly something that motivated you. What about a painful experience you’ve learned a lesson from? Whether the support of others showed you the importance of compassion, or thinking outside the box to solve a problem showed you the power of creativity, this experience might well have influenced your core values without you being aware of it.
Pick out some keywords.
Simply casting your eye over some examples of different values and seeing what stands out to you can be a great indicator. It’s quick, easy and interesting! Indeed.com provides a list for exactly this purpose in their article about Discovering Core Values. Consider making a list of words that resonate with you and then reflect on what they have in common, or think about how each of them relates to you, your experiences and role models.
Once you’ve done all this, it’s a case of finding the common denominator. If the values you end up with don’t seem related, don’t be disheartened! This is often the case.
However diverse your interests are, there is likely to be one or two broader themes that unite them.
What do I mean by themes?
Let’s say for example you identified the words Leadership, Understanding and Performance. They seem dissimilar, even at odds with one another. But a career that requires understanding of others, the ability to lead, and also gives the opportunity to perform in some way might be teaching or becoming some type of trainer or speaker.
See what you come up with, interpret it in your own way, and most importantly remember that there’s no formula to getting the right answer, it’s all about what feels right to you.
Let us know if this works for you in the comments!
For more information about company culture and bringing your true self to work, check out our free D&I in the workplace handbook, available to download now.