Understanding your work values can help you find the perfect job
Use these checklists to determine which of these factors belong at the top of your list of job-search criteria.
Think about why you chose to do the job you do. Money? Autonomy? The chance to work for a good cause? These are just a few examples of work values that can influence your career path and job satisfaction. Being conscious of these core values—the importance, worth, or usefulness of something—can give you much greater odds of not only avoiding a job that makes you miserable but also finding a job that actually brings you joy—two things the entire job-seeking universe desires.
That’s because people are happier when their value system aligns with their job and career choices, says Jaime Klein, founder of Inspire Human Resources, a New York–based HR consulting firm.
So, what are these magical core values? Unfortunately, they aren’t always obvious.
“Values are one of the first things I work with my clients on, largely because I think people have a hard time identifying them,” says Amy Wolfgang, CEO at Austin, Texas-based Wolfgang Career Coaching.
Further complicating matters is the fact that work values aren’t universal. “What’s important to one person may not be important to someone else,” says Karen Litzinger, a business etiquette and career coach in Pittsburgh. And to add to the mystique, your work values can change over time: “People right out of college are often focused on getting a high-paying job so they can pay back their student loans, but that focus can shift later in their career,” says Litzinger.
To help determine your current set of work values, use this checklist, which is divided into three categories. You’ll form a better idea of what's most important to you when searching for your next job.
These are the intangible rewards that keep you motivated and engaged at your job. In a nutshell, intrinsic values are what make you wake up in the morning and look forward to going to work, even when the weather’s lousy.
On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being most important, rank how important these intrinsic values are to you:
- Having variety and change at work. Some people get bored doing the same thing day in and day out, while others prefer having a set routine at work, Litzinger says.
- Helping others. Working for a company with a good cause is a top priority for many workers, says Klein. Indeed, more than half of Millennials said a company’s charitable work influenced them to accept a job offer, recent survey by research and creative agency Achieve found.
- Feeling respected at work. In a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 65% of workers said respectful treatment of all employees is an important factor of job satisfaction.
- Taking risks. Some people, like airline pilots, are thrill-seekers, “while other people are more risk-averse,” Litzinger says.
- Having your work recognized. Public recognition, particularly from higher ups, is a priority for many employees.
These are the tangible rewards or conditions you find at work, including the office setting, vacation policy, and earnings potential.
On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being most important, rank how important these extrinsic values are to you:
- Traveling for work. The daily grind in Cubicleville can take its toll—especially on those who love to travel. And, chances are, the younger you are, the more pumped you are to find a job with travel perks. According to a survey by Hipmunk, 38% of Millennials travel for business, compared to just 23% of Gen Xers and 8% of baby boomers.
- Collecting a big paycheck. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make a good living. Monster’s Salary Search tool, PayScale.com, and Salary.com let you search for salary information based on job title and location.
- Setting your own hours. Want an employer with a flexible work policy? You’re not alone. Aside from salary, 40% of Monster users said good work-life balance is the most important factor for job satisfaction, a recent poll found.
- Having time off work. The average full-time American worker gets 10 to 14 days of paid vacation a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some companies, however, offer unlimited vacation days—so you can play hard and work hard.
- Having autonomy at work. Don’t want someone hovering over your shoulder, watching your every move? Certain jobs are tailored for people who like to work independently.
These are the personal values associated with where you want to live, how you choose to spend your free time, and your long-term life goals.
On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being most important, rank how important these lifestyle values are to you:
- Spending time with friends and family. This goes back to work-life balance; your job has a direct impact on your ability to spend time with your family. Investment banking jobs, for instance, generally entail long hours and working nights and weekends.
- Living in a big city. Some people thrive on the hustle and bustle of city life, whereas others prefer a quieter pace of living in the ’burbs.
- Living abroad. According to a Monster poll, 48% of users would leave the U.S. to pursue their dream job—and 31% of those respondents would move across the world for it.
- Saving money. This can be a challenge if your job doesn’t pay well and/or requires you to live in an expensive city.
- Becoming a homeowner. Whether you can afford to buy a home often depends on where you’re living and how much money you’re saving.
Once you’ve completed all three checklists, look at the values that you rated as 5s—these are your top work priorities. The values you listed as 4s and 3s are still important, but they shouldn’t be at the top of your list of criteria during your next job search.
Then determine which of the three categories is most important to you. See if any of the values within the categories overlap (for instance, if you ranked “having time off” and “spending time with friends and family” as 5s).
Finally, spend some time writing down ways your core values could be reflected in your ideal job. Keep these values top of mind as you research companies during your job search and use your values as the basis for some of the questions you ask hiring managers at your job interviews. You can also make mention of your work values in your cover letter so likeminded hiring managers take notice.
Find the right job
Getting to know your work values can help set you up for a successful job search—and so can we. Could you use some help kick-starting your search? Join Monster today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get job alerts sent directly to your inbox so you can apply as soon as something catches your eye. Find a company that aligns with your core values and brings out the best in you.