Values are a big conversation topic in the workplace, with nearly every company eager to construct a public statement of its core values. Consider clarifying your personal values in a similar way to enhance both your daily agenda and long-term career goals. Start by spending a little time reflecting on what's most important to you, and then learn how to apply those values at work.
Discover Your Values
Learn more about your personal values by thinking back to times when you were most satisfied at work. Visualize the specific details of certain situations. What exactly made you happy? Think about your environment, the people you were with and your favorite activities. If you rarely find yourself fulfilled in your work, search for rewarding memories from your personal life, including school and social activities. Look for connections between situations to help you pick out the areas of particular value to you.
Likewise, think about specific times when you felt angry, frustrated, upset or bored. What triggered your discomfort? What might have made the situations better? Keep paper handy to take notes about your discoveries. Work towards a list of four to eight core personal values that are important to you.
Study Your Values
Spend a few months paying attention to the items on your list, looking for ways those values can be met in your day to day life. Are some of your personal values more important than others? Do any of your values conflict with each other? Dig deeper to look for solutions. For example, if you value acceptance, you may conform to the expectation of your co-workers, but if you also value individuality, you are likely to feel resentful about that conformity.
Brainstorm ways to meet both your needs. Perhaps you need to spend more time with people who are less judgmental. On the other hand, maybe some of your personal values are more important than others. Your value of acceptance might be secondary to your value of individuality. Realizing that makes it easier to make better decisions for yourself.
Apply Your Values at Work
After a little exploration, it's time to apply the lessons you learned more systematically. Start with your day-to-day work. Does it reflect your personal values? If there are many areas that conflict with your values, talk to your manager about your struggle. Contemplate sharing some of your values to your co-workers. If your relationships are otherwise strong, your co-workers may be happy to help you work in a way that better suits your core values.
Then move onto your short- and long-term career goals. If your current plan moves in a direction against your values, make changes so that your future jobs offer opportunities to satisfy those values. If you're between jobs, craft a master plan with a focus on finding a job in line with your personal values.
While exploring your values, focus on those things that are truly important to you, not things that you think should be important to you. Expect to get better and better over time at making decisions in line with your personal values for more enjoyable workdays and a more satisfying career.
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