What are your work values?

Photo by Julie Walraven

Work values are the beliefs and ideas that are important to us and guide our actions when we’re on the job. Despite the importance of work values, few people today consider them when choosing a career or entertaining a job offer. Studies show that up to 80 per cent of workers are in jobs they find unappealing because the position doesn’t meet their values.

After all, people are most often motivated to find work, hold onto a position and maintain employment because of the financial rewards. In other words, the primary motivator for most working people is the paycheque.

Still, most career counsellors would argue that work and career should also give career and job seekers a sense of meaning and purpose in life. Studies reveal that when people are motivated beyond a paycheque, they stay in the position longer, feel less stress, take fewer sick days and are much happier in life.

What do you want to do?

The difficulty for job seekers, however, is that most don’t know what they value in their job or career. I had a client who told me he wanted to become a police officer. I asked why and he said because everyone important to him was or had been a police officer (including his father, uncle and grandfather). I asked him again, but why do you want to be a police officer? He said, “I like the idea of seeing the change that happens in people’s lives.” I told him, “Then you should not become a police officer. Rarely as a police officer, will you ever see the impact of your intervention in the lives of those you help. Go and talk to your relatives.” When he came back, he had given up the idea.

Identify your motivator

What do you value? There are a number of job motivators beyond “money” and being a “people person.” How do you see yourself fitting into the following career categories?  

“Doing” careers: Motivated by energy and action, you value common sense, being practical, working outdoors, working with things rather than people and seeing the results of the work you do. (Examples: construction, athletics and the military)

“Thinking” careers: Motivated by ideas, you value curiosity, learning, autonomy and independent thought. (Examples: anything in the “ologies,” medicine, computer science and engineering)

“Creating” careers: Motivated by self-expression, you value aesthetics, beauty, originality and imagination. (Examples: music, art, TV and radio broadcasting and journalism)  

“Helping” careers: Motivated by helping others, you value collaboration, cooperation with others, generosity and service to others. (Examples: teaching, counselling and nursing.)

“Persuading” careers: Motivated by influencing others, you value risk-taking, status and competition. (Examples: politics, law, business and self-employment)

“Organizing” careers: Motivated by organizing their world, you value accuracy, stability, structure and organizing others. (Examples: office administration, accounting, human resources)

If you’re unsure where you fit, go to your local career centre and they can help you perform a quick values assessment to determine which type of career would best suit you. 

About the author

Clyde Robertson holds a master’s degree in counselling psychology from Trinity Western University. His experience includes 12 years as a career counsellor; seven years as a post-secondary instructor in psychology, life skills and career counselling; seven years providing job search skills, interview skills and career planning for career colleges; five years providing employment counselling for community service agencies; and two years as an employment counselling manager. Robertson’s expertise encompasses code of ethics, counselling skills, group work skills, and career and employment counselling for immigrants and internationally trained professionals.