Values are a set of priorities, a hierarchy of what is important to us. Words like “acceptance”, “accountability”, “collaboration” and “honesty” describe our values. Values drive our decision making and play an important role in our happiness at work and in social relations. If aligned to your work, values give purpose to a job, making it feel more like a hobby and less like hard work. Further, what you bring to your role is usually a reflection of your values.

Your personal values are likely to be the main factor in deciding a career path or indeed a career change. And it’s exciting! One set of values don’t pigeon hole you into one career, though some careers demand a specific set of values. For example:

  • Personnel in the military are likely to name leadership, variety and risk-taking as their main work values, but team membership, security, advancement and prestige may also be significant factors
  • An aid worker in a developing country will probably give helping others as their core value, possibly with independence, team membership, and risk-taking. And they might dismiss material benefits, security and advancement as irrelevant

In other cases, a single career can offer scope for satisfying many different values. Consider an accountant:

  • One may work in a large private practice and value prestige, material benefits and security
  • Their colleague who resigned to set up her own practice may enjoy independence and risk-taking
  • A third, who works as an in-house accountant with a charity, may gain satisfaction from knowing that his work is contributing to a worthwhile cause

They all have different values, but they will each value: variety, responsibility, personal interaction and intellectual challenge of their day-to-day work.

Look at what you value. Research shows that if we can align our values with our work, then we can find meaning in what we do, a sense of purpose. This, in turn, drives high performance and a sense of fulfilment that cannot be gained through monetary gains alone. If you want to live a purpose-driven life, you need to understand what drives you. Understanding which values are most important to you will allow you to make decisions about your career path as well as help you find ways to improve your current role or even make a career change.

Demartini Value Determination Process – 2014: download a document to help you understand your values.

If you would like to discuss how values relate to performance and long-term success, at both an individual and an organisational level email

Value Determination: What are values and how do they impact our work?
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