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Core values are a set of fundamental beliefs, ideals, and practices every person holds. These are your internal fundamentals that, knowingly or unknowingly, guide and inform you on how you conduct your daily life. 

These values are the underlying fibers of our overall social interactions, decision making, strategy formation processes. 

Decisions in both your personal and professional life are usually guided by the core values you uphold. Whether or not you choose a company with advocacy over one that has an international market, or choose the job that gives you more compensation for what you do over the one that offers more creative freedom these are all guided by the values embedded in you. 

Social psychologist Daphna Oyserman defined what core values are in her chapter entitled “Values, psychological perspectives,” published in the International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences

She said core values are the “internalized cognitive structures that guide choices by evoking a sense of basic principles of right and wrong (e.g., moral values), a sense of priorities (e.g., personal achievement vs. group good) and that create a willingness to make meaning and see patterns (e.g., trust vs. mistrust).”

There are various ways on how you acquire core values:

  • Some are genetically embedded in people, like creativity or intuition. 
  • Some, meanwhile, were instilled in you while you were growing up, like faith and loyalty. 
  • Others were acquired as learnings in your life experiences, such as courage and tenacity.

Ultimately, your core values will define who you are as a person and as a professional. They dictate your future even before you choose a path. 

Getting to know your core values and understanding them will help you know who you are and give you insight into what gives you fulfillment in life.

The Importance of Core Values in Your Career

Importance of Core Values in Your Career

Making your core values the epicenter of your job search or career exploration process can help you make more meaningful connections between your skills and career interests. It also makes sense that you work in an organization whose core values align with yours. 

Your core values will inform you how you will interact with the people you meet, set the focus of your work, and hold individual responsibilities

If you line up these core values with a company that shares the same values or with a position that will encourage the use of these values, you will find fulfillment in what you do. 

Your core values may be categorized into three classifications: intrinsic, extrinsic, and lifestyle. 

1. Intrinsic Values

These values are associated with internal rewards related to satisfaction and motivation. 

Core values examples here are: 

  • Affection.
  • Artistic Expression.
  • Balance.
  • Being Truthful.
  • Communication.
  • Compassion.
  • Creativity.
  • Determination.
  • Effectiveness.
  • Encouragement.
  • Endurance.
  • Excellence.
  • Fairness.
  • Gratitude.
  • Helping Others.
  • Honesty.
  • Humility.
  • Humor.
  • Ingenuity.
  • Kindness.
  • Leadership.
  • Loyalty.
  • Optimism.
  • Patience.
  • Professionalism.
  • Respect.
  • Responsibility.
  • Teamwork.
  • This-too-shall-pass Attitude.
  • Time Management.  

2. Extrinsic Values

These values are centered on rewards that manifest in your life. 

Core values examples here are: 

  • Abundance.
  • Accolade.
  • Achievement.
  • Advancement.
  • Authority.
  • Benefits.
  • Career Growth.
  • Compensation.
  • Connection.
  • Finances.
  • Investments.
  • Job Security.
  • Personal Development.
  • Popularity.
  • Power.
  • Prestige.
  • Prosperity.
  • Quality of life.
  • Recognition.
  • Reputation.
  • Stability.
  • Success.
  • Wealth.

3. Lifestyle Values

These values are those that govern your decisions on how you want to live your life around work. 

Core values examples here are: 

  • Adventure.
  • Autonomy.
  • Community.
  • Culture.
  • Curiosity.
  • Diversity.
  • Enjoyment.
  • Entertainment.
  • Excitement.
  • Faith.
  • Fame.
  • Family.
  • Fitness.
  • Friendships.
  • Fun.
  • Home.
  • Leisure.
  • Love.
  • Pleasure.
  • Religion.
  • Relationship Standards.
  • Spirituality.
  • Variety.
  • Wellness.
  • Work-Life Balance. 

You can’t choose to have just intrinsic values or only lifestyle values. These categories are not independent of each other. They coexist with each other in your system and make up for your entire set of core values.

While intrinsic and extrinsic values can easily be linked to an employment setting, ultimately, these values fuel your overall life direction or lifestyle values. You must take a holistic approach and consider all three in defining your own set of core values. 

The holistic approach to these three categories means you take a pause and reflect on: 

  • First what drives and motivates you to do the things in your careers, ask yourself, what am I striving hard for? Who am I doing all these for? 
  • Second what are the goals you want to see in your life? In what career position do you want to be years down? What kind of compensation do you want for your hard work? 
  • Third how will these translate to your lifestyle, where you want to live, where you want to spend your vacations, and what passions you wish to pursue outside your career?

Knowing what values you have in all three categories, and understanding how these integrate into your work will help you attain full contentment and gratification in your daily grind. Your goal is to reach what is called the “flow” state at work.

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi described the concept of “flow” as a highly focused mental state of complete absorption in the task at hand, leading to feelings of complete satisfaction and fulfillment.

Honestly, assessing yourself will help you get to know what you want, organize your thoughts in your life journey, and find a position that aligns with your core career values. 

This will create a better life flow and will ultimately lead to higher levels of happiness and fulfillment.

Discover Your Core The Core Career Values Blueprint

The Core Career Values Blueprint

Having core values and understanding what they are are two very different things. 

Everyone, undoubtedly, has core values. Sometimes most of them are good, sometimes most of them are bad, but everyone has that set of an ingrained compass in them that informs how to make their life’s decisions. 

However, not everyone can understand these and harness core values to lead a more fulfilling life. How do you make core values personal? 

The process of discovering and understanding your career core values requires self-reflection, space, and time to think uninterruptedly. 

Take a few minutes of your time and use this 3-step CORE CAREER VALUES BLUEPRINT as your guide to discovering your core values. 

Phase One List Your Core Values

In this step, you’re going to need a pen and paper, or your phone or laptop as you’re going to take notes. 

Reflect and think back to the past and remember when you were at your happiest, “in the zone,” or having the greatest feeling of fulfillment, satisfaction, and accomplishment. 

Relive and remember this moment in full detail, then ask yourself the following questions: 

  • What were you doing during that time?
  • Who was there?
  • What environment were you in?
  • What other details were involved? 

Now, do the opposite. 

Think of a time when you were the most unhappy, most inefficient, dissatisfied, or unmotivated. 

And then ask yourself the same four questions: 

  • What were you doing during that time?
  • Who was there?
  • What environment were you in?
  • What other details were involved? 

Repeat these two steps until you have lots of examples for each scenario. They may be big or small scenarios. It doesn’t matter as long. Then, identify central themes in these situations.

For example, do most of your positive scenarios involve achievements, or collaboration, or love? Or do most of your negative situations include loss, not being acknowledged, being restricted to your creative freedom? 

Identify these themes and write down themes that resonate with you. Come up with at least 30 to 40 themes. 

Once you’ve written your general, extensive core values list, it is time to bring out those highlighters or markers.

To refine your list, look at the ways you can group similar values. 

For example, you can combine accuracy, correctness, quality-orientation, and thoroughness and attention to detail under one heading: perfection. This now becomes one of your core career values. 

Remember that this exercise defines your value about yourself and yourself alone. One person’s definition of perfection may be different from another. 

Once you have pooled themes into specific values, write one or two sentences describing what each value means. 

Aim to refine your core values list to 5 to 10 items. 

Phase Two Test Your Values

The best way to know if you have correctly identified your values is to put them to the test. If you have been placed in a situation that made you distinctly uncomfortable, squirm in your seat, or feel a little nauseous, this may have been because you were being asked to behave contrary to your values. This is your gut reaction trying to alert you to a value clash. How do you test your values? 

Look back at your list in Phase One, precisely the negative scenarios. What makes these situations negative? Are any of your values being violated? Are they directly opposed to the values that make you happy and fulfilled? 

Then, look at your refined list in Phase Two. Be conscious of your everyday decision-making over several weeks. Do you feel as though your decisions and actions are aligned with your values? 

If not, why? You may need to revisit steps 1 and 2 to get this right.

Phase Three Fit Values Into Your Career Path

Now that you have identified your core values use them to influence your job search proactively.

You can filter out those organizations whose work core values don’t match your own by asking yourself some key questions:

  • What tasks do you most enjoy or get the highest sense of achievement from?
  • Are you taking advantage of your strengths?
    • What kind of work schedule do you want? Traditional 9 to 5? Freelancing or the flexibility to work from home? Travel opportunities?
  • What kind of benefits are you looking for? This might be a minimum dollar figure, working for commission, bonuses, or the ability to leave an hour early to pick up your kids. Does this benefits package support your lifestyle?
  • What industries or companies most interest you? What are their company values? How do they align with your own?
  • What type of workplace relationships do you value? Working face-to-face with clients, or behind the scenes? Do you like a manager with regular oversight and structure, or do you prefer flexibility and autonomy?

Applying Your Core Values In Your Professional Life

Applying Your Core Values In Your Professional Life

While core values may apply more naturally in your personal life, it takes practice when it comes to professional life application. 

If you don’t take the time to define your core career values or align them with your career trajectory, you will most likely feel less authentic and less motivated. 

Misalignment between your work core values and your company’s values could also lead to a “job burnout,” a condition characterized by exhaustion, loss of enthusiasm, and inefficacy in your job. 

You have to know that even if job listings have descriptions that match your skillset, not all of these will gratify your values. 

For example, if teamwork is one of your core values, a job that requires independence with minimal supervision may not be the right fit for you. 

Now that you have identified your core values, you can use them to proactively influence your job search. 

Here are 3 tips on how you can integrate your core values into your career. 

1. Match Company Core Values With Your Core Values

At the start of your job search, avoid going on an application spree. See to it that you prioritize the job openings that match the type of work you want to do, the purpose you want to achieve, and the values you want to see in the work environment. 

Discern at the job descriptions first on what core values they apply and then do relevant research on the company. Doing this will be beneficial not only for you as an employee but also for the company as they will be working with someone who sees things on the same page. 

2. Be Upfront With Your Core Values

You have to be honest and direct with your core values. One of the ways to do this is by including core values on your resume. Put a section on values and list the relevant ones in the job you are applying for

You might want to include a short description of how your particular core value will help you carry out the position well or be an asset to the company. You can also weave these core values into other sections of your resume. 

Job calls and interviews are also excellent opportunities to be upfront about your core values. This is when the employer will gauge your skills and capabilities and look at your personality, so it’s only fit to mention your core values during this time. 

In explaining your core values, don’t forget to put them in the profession you are applying to. 

For example, suppose you are applying for a job that involves meeting people, and closing deals and punctuality is one of your core values. In that case, you can tell your employer that you firmly believe that punctual employees will give your company a good face when meeting with clients or other people. It is usually a good sign that the company gives them the importance and values of their time. 

3. Practice What You Preach

If you laid out your core values in your resume and interviews, employers expect you to follow through on this in the final stages of your job application and your career with them. 

As such, you need to find a way to remind yourself of your core values regularly. This might be in the form of a screensaver or wallpaper for your favorite device, a post-it note stuck to your mirror or computer monitor, etc. Make this list of core values personal. 

Get creative! Use anything that works for you to help you adhere to your values through and through. 


How Can Job Seekers Cope through Uncertainty and Pandemic

Whether you’re a first-time job seeker looking for the right first opportunity, or you are a long-time employee struggling to find satisfaction and purpose in your career, knowing your core values is an essential exercise for you. 

Core values are there to guide you on how you conduct your life both personally and professionally. Whether you are aware of it or not, these values are deeply held and ingrained in your personality. It is your compass to make decisions, interact with people, conduct yourself, and know what matters to you. 

Sometimes, there are many outside factors in our environment that we use as a compass to know what we want. We get ourselves overwhelmed with influences in our peer group, pressures from family, pressures from society, social media, mainstream media, trends, and popular culture. But in the end, nothing more will give us satisfaction than looking from within and being true to yourself. 

Gaining a deeper understanding of your core values and how they shape your decisions in life is life getting to know yourself. It gives you insights on what processes will provide you with the most happiness and satisfaction in life. 

Values give you a sense of purpose. Acknowledge them, get to know them, and apply them in finding your career for a purposeful and fulfilling professional life. 

As an author and holistic wealth advocate, Leanne Jacobs put it: “If an opportunity is not aligned with what matters most to you (your core values), let it pass. The opportunities that don’t make your soul sing or can’t be excited about, just end up taking space where a better opportunity could be.”

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