Updated: Apr 24
Can you easily define what your core values are? It’s an open-ended question to be sure. Even if we don’t think about it very often, every one of us has a set of ideals or ethics that help us make decisions, prioritize options, and guide us in our everyday lives.
Having a good understanding of your own core values is important not only in your personal life but also at work.
Likewise, organizations have a set of intrinsic beliefs or principles that drive their decision-making and behavior. Making sure that these two sets of values are aligned is directly connected to your career success and daily performance. So, how do you explore and leverage core values to your benefit?
Determining what your values are
We all have core values, even if we aren’t always conscious of them. In order to determine what these are, consider asking yourself some questions and really giving them some introspection. First, what makes you truly happy? In general, we want to focus on finding joy in our lives and the values we live by should support that. Second, what makes you feel proud? Like the first question, this reflects the things we want our values to support. Third, when you have free time, how do you spend it? This in particular can help you understand what your goals are subconsciously. If like many people, you find yourself frequently busy and strapped for time, the things you spend that precious free time on probably reflects what’s important to you! Based on these things, you can probably come up with some examples of the values that drive your decisions. But wait! What if you don’t agree with what you found?
Making the most of core values
When you were answering those questions, did anything feel off? Disconnected?
The truth is, a lot of priorities are always competing for our attention.
And we don’t always put the most important things first. Maybe you’re happiest outdoors but never find time to leave your desk. Perhaps you’re watching TV at night instead of reading or writing the book you’ve dreamed about. You might find yourself answering these exploratory questions and thinking to yourself, “I’m not really making time for what matters.” What’s important to note is that none of these examples are right or wrong. Instead, they serve to remind us that each person needs to pay attention to their internal compass and true ideals.
The same concept holds true for the workplace. Ask yourself: how do you define success, what is your comfort level with the way your company conducts business and do you feel that your contributions make a difference? These types of questions all demonstrate ways that we can better understand the core values we hold true in our workplace.
If you are not satisfied with the answers, consider whether what you’re doing is working towards your values, or against them.
Earlier we said that values help us make decisions, even subconsciously but it isn’t a perfect system. Instead, consciously focusing on our values and goals, reevaluating the fit, and possibly changing things will help you become more aligned with the person and professional you want to be. A clear set of core values is critical for helping navigate work and life decisions.
A few examples of core values
Naming our values is a useful trick for making them less conceptual and more practical.
Ideally, we can describe our values in a single word, with a straightforward meaning to us.
Here’s a list of some popular values, in no particular order to help you get started. Integrity means doing the right thing, no matter what. Honesty is the value of telling the truth. Innovation reflects a focus on creativity and improvement. Balance suggests healthy moderation in all things. Wealth would indicate a focus on financial well-being, and leadership is a value for guiding and mentoring others.
Impacting your job search with core values
For job seekers, core values can be incorporated into a resume and cover letter to assist the hiring manager learn more about your ideals and professional strengths. During an interview, getting insight into the core values of the company can be a useful tool to help determine if you feel the work culture and environment are a good match for you and also to provide an opportunity to highlight your unique accomplishments.
One of the keys to success here is making sure that your values and those of the potential employer, are in sync.
Both in the immediate, and also in exploring their overall mission and goals for the future of the company.
To this end, each one of us has a set of core values as do all types of businesses but not everyone can easily identify them. Taking the time to reflect and figure out what really matters to you will create a strong foundation to support and guide the most important decisions you make both at work and at home.