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In my work as a career coach, I have seen situations when the values a client holds dear are forgotten in the excitement of receiving a job offer.  An example of this is when my client Todd received an offer from a prominent hedge fund. Todd is a software architect who values working with cutting-edge technology. Equally important to him was finishing his Masters’ degree in the evenings.

In discussing the pros and cons of the offer during our coaching session, Todd mentioned that his manager expected his direct reports to work 12 hour days, and in some cases longer, when a deadline was approaching.  “How will that work with your desire to take evening classes,” I asked?  Todd stopped for a minute. He realized that although this employer offered the potential of working with cool technology, his goal of finishing his Masters’ might be derailed.  This is an example of what results when personal values are in conflict with an employers’ values.

When work and values are out of synch

Few things create greater distress and anxiety than when what we do doesn’t match what we value.  On the other hand, work that is in synch with our values gives us meaning and purpose and increases the energy that keeps us going. We might have mastered a new skill, collaborated as part of a team, done something good for someone else, had our innovative suggestion implemented or taken a risk. This creation of value is fuel for the engine moving us onwards, and upwards, in our lives.

Identify your values

What’s important to you? What do you value above all else? Like most people, you spend considerable time in the workplace. What kind of working environment is worth so much of your valuable talent and time? Do you know? When was the last time you clarified and prioritized your values?

Pick three things you value most. You might value creativity and innovation, diversity, professional development, respect, flexibility, teamwork, or risk taking–the list is endless. Determine how much of your time in your current job is spent on those values. If your answer is not enough, it’s probably time to investigate alternatives.

How do you know?

How do you know if the values of a potential employer are similar to yours? The answer lies in talking with current and former employees and asking key questions such as –

  • What does it take to be successful here?
  • How does your company develop and recognize employees?
  • What do you like about working here?
  • What are the greatest challenges you face?
  • Is there error tolerance in risk-taking?
  • Does your company support flexible work schedules or locations?

The more time you spend fostering and honoring your values at work and in your life in general, the happier you will be.