We all have values that underpin how we feel, think and act, and they can be challenged in the workplace. So what should you do when you find yourself in a role or working for an organisation that doesn’t align with your values? Here are five tips for aligning your career with your values.
- Identify your values
When you are clear on your values and how you live them, they become the guiding compass for your decision-making and career choices. Start by identifying your core values. To do this, ask yourself: what matters the most to you? What do you stand for? Who do you most admire and why? What beliefs drive how you feel, think and act? Use the answers to those questions to identify key themes and ultimately define your values. This reflection can take time, so don’t rush it.
- Notice the disconnect
When you feel like you must change who you are in the workplace, it’s a sign that your values and those of the organisation are out of alignment. You’ll likely also feel uncomfortable voicing your opinion and may feel pressured to support ideas that go against your beliefs and values. Research shows that when someone stops being their authentic self, it causes psychological distress, which can have ongoing emotional and physical ramifications. It also impacts how people perceive and relate to them as colleagues and friends notice the disconnect between what a person says they value and how they behave at work.
- Assess the current state
Next, examine your current role and workplace and consider what you like or don’t like about the organisation’s culture and working environment and whether it brings out your best. If your assessment shows you can live your values, outline why and how you are encouraged to do this. If it’s the opposite, outline what steps you could reasonably take to improve your ability to stand by your values at work.
- Be clear on trade-offs
If your assessment reveals that you can’t live your values at work, it may be time to consider ‘voting yourself off the island’. By that, I mean taking control and deciding to go somewhere else. Reflecting on my career, some of the most challenging jobs and demanding people to work for were pivotal and vital experiences. So, before you throw in the towel, consider the long-term benefits and what you gain from the role. Ask yourself, is the trade-off you are considering making worth it?
- Do your due diligence
Once you’ve decided to shift roles or organisations, do your homework and check that there will be a value fit. Find people who work there and ask questions about the culture and leadership style. Conduct online research using sites like Glassdoor or Indeed and read online reviews and past and present employee feedback. Check out companies that have won awards as great places to work. Through this process, you want to gather all the data you can to get insights into what the workplace might be like. Ask yourself: Do I get a good feeling about this workplace? Will it bring out my best? Will I be proud to work there? Then, during the job interview, ask questions about how the organisation operates, its culture and ways of working. You want to satisfy yourself that the workplace and type of work you will be doing will suit you and what matters to you. As you do this, notice how you feel throughout the conversation. If something doesn’t feel right during the conversation, challenge yourself to figure out why. It could be an early warning sign of a values disconnect.
When you have a career that aligns with your values, your working life feels more in sync with who you, and that’s a great place to be. Remember, it’s your career, so take charge of it and make it work for you, not against you.
Written by Michelle Gibbings.
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