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3 steps to a more fulfilling job: does your work match your values?

Updated: Aug 1, 2022

I remember the first time I did a values exercise with my colleagues and I was struck by how different our values were: cooperation vs independence, stability vs flexibility. And that's normal: we all have our own personal values, and they are all different.

This exercise made me understood why some of my colleagues were more satisfied with their work than others: their work simply did not match what was important to them in life. And so they had a general sense of frustration: something was wrong, but it was unclear what. Their manager was great, the company as a whole was also great but somehow, there was a huge misalignment.

And now imagine that someone who appreciates creativity and flexibility is charged with the responsibility of building daily analytical reports from a template and sending them out every morning and evening to other project participants. The likelihood of that person starting to hate mornings in a few weeks, or maybe even days, is high, isn't it?

Don't get me wrong - there will always be something you enjoy doing more or less. But on a higher level, if you identify your personal values and can live up to them, it will help you feel more fulfilled, and if not, you will feel worse.

So follow these 3 steps to check if your work matches your values:

1. Identify

There are various self-assessment tools available online: you can take tests or simply write down the values that resonate with you, narrow them down, and prioritize them. Choose the top three.

The most important thing is, to be honest with yourself when you do this. Don't try to fit them in with your current life situation: your partner, your job, your lifestyle. Ask yourself what makes you feel the most grateful, what inspires you in life. Also, remind yourself that they are not set in stone, and you are developing: what was important to you a few years ago may be different now. If you valued "adventure" five years ago and now you like a stable and safe life, that's okay.

Once you are clear on your personal values, it will be much easier for you to understand and trust your gut feeling that arises when you go down the wrong path.

2. Evaluate

Check what your values look like in your daily life. You can draw a chart where the days of the week are the columns and the values are the rows, and simply assess each day in the evening for one or two weeks.

Did the value come through? How strongly was it present? Let's say if you value "collaboration," but that day you had to work on personal projects and not interact with other people, it wasn't there. How would you feel if it happened for one week? A month?

This kind of reflection can help you decide what changes you need to apply in the future to live a more balanced and fulfilling life.

3. Act

After you assess what your daily activities look like, you can think about a plan of action. What can you change?

  • Change the focus of your role? Perhaps you can discuss your current responsibilities with your supervisor. Think about what you really like and dislike about your current role. You may be surprised at how much more joyful your daily life will become when someone else does the things you hate and you focus on the tasks you really love and you’re good at. Increased productivity is a nice bonus.

  • Change your role? Maybe you'll move to a different position or department, take another course to upgrade your skills? Move to a management position or take on another project?

  • Change employer? If you are starting to look for a new job, knowing your values will make your job search much easier. You don't need to impress every company you come in contact with. If you live and act according to your values, you will only attract employers who are right for you. It's like in a relationship - an initially good match will lead to a long, fulfilling partnership.

If there is a constant mismatch between your work and your values, there is a risk that at some point it will escalate from dissatisfaction to depression or burnout.

So take some time now to think about what you believe in. Figuring out how you can work in accordance with your values can be a better step in your career as well as in your life.

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