Why You Need to Clarify Your Career and Work Values

Work Values Can Guide You Down Your Ideal Career Path

Business woman getting advice from her boss
Photo: Musketeer/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Your work values are the subset of your fundamental beliefs and ideas—core principles that are an important part of who you are. They include things like honesty, service, self-respect, respect for others, peace, and success.

If you want to have a successful and fulfilling career, you must identify what work values you cherish the most before you choose a career or decide whether to accept a job offer.

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Work Values

We all have both intrinsic and extrinsic work values. Intrinsic values have to do with the actual tasks involved in practicing a particular occupation or doing a job. They include helping others, doing challenging work, and being an exemplary leader.

Extrinsic values are concerned with the by-products of an occupation or job. In other words, they refer to what you get out of your work, rather than what you put into it. Examples of extrinsic values include high earnings, recognition, and job security.

Identifying Your Career Values

Because not identifying your work values will diminish your chances of ultimately being satisfied with your career or job, it is imperative that you identify them early on in the career planning process. To do this, you will use a self-assessment tool called a work value inventory. 

Although it may sound complicated, it is just a list of values that you rank by order of importance to you. For example, the instructions on one of these inventories may tell you to rate each value on a scale of one to 10, giving a one to those values that are most important to you and a 10 to those that are least important. Alternatively, you may have to arrange a list of work values in order of how much they mean to you, with the ones at the top being the most significant.

If you are working with a career development professional such as a career counselor or career development facilitator, he or she can administer a work value inventory. You can also take one on your own simply by ranking a list of values, like the ones listed below. Then you match the values at the top of your list with careers that satisfy them. O*Net Online has an excellent tool you can use to search for occupations that are suitable for those with particular work values.

Even within the same occupation, not every job will satisfy your work values. When evaluating a job offer, make sure your prospective employer's corporate culture is in line with what you find important. For example, if collaboration is something you feel strongly about, steer clear of a job that requires you to work without others' input. 

Examples and Definitions of Work Values

Here are examples of items that could appear on a work value inventory, along with a definition of each one. When reading this list, think about how important each value is to you.

  • Achievement: Doing work that yields results 
  • Independence: Working and making decisions on your own 
  • Recognition: Receiving attention for your work
  • Relationships: Working alongside coworkers as well as helping others
  • Working conditions: Being in an environment that you're comfortable with
  • Autonomy: Receiving little or no supervision
  • Helping others: Providing assistance to individuals or groups
  • Prestige: Having high standing
  • Job security: Enjoying a high probability that you will remain employed
  • Collaboration: Working with others
  • Helping society: Contributing to the betterment of the world
  • Compensation: Receiving adequate pay
  • Utilizing your skills and bBackground: Using your education and work experience to do your job
  • Leadership: Supervising/managing others 
  • Creativity: Using your own ideas
  • Variety: Doing different activities
  • Challenge: Performing tasks that are difficult or new to you
  • Leisure: Having adequate time away from work
  • Recognition: Receiving credit for achievements
  • Artistic expression: Expressing one's artistic talents
  • Influence: Having the ability to affect people's opinions and ideas

Traits Other Than Work Values

It is important to note that while your values play an essential role in career choice, you should not consider them in isolation. You must also look at your other traits including personality type, interests, and aptitudes.

By considering all of these factors together, you will come to a holistic and well-informed conclusion about what your career path should be. It will also give you the confidence to forge ahead with your decision rather than second-guess yourself on whether you made the right choice.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles