It’s important to explore yourself first as you explore careers. Having self-knowledge and self-awareness of you as an individual will help you find a career that’s a good match. Identifying your most important values is one piece of the puzzle.
What are values and why are they important?
In the TEDxMünchen Talk Why Values Matter, Jan Stassen has a great description of values:
“We as individuals use [values] as guidance when there are big decisions in our lives. Whereas goals, plans, and fears focus on the outcome, values worry about the way we do things. They have a moral implication. They define how we want to continue to live. So, to put it in very simple terms: values are situation independent decision helpers. So, no matter what context I’m in, I’m trying to stick to my own values.”
How is this relevant to career exploration?
When I was a sophomore in college, I changed my major from Architectural Studies to Psychology, and values were a guiding force in this decision. As I progressed to my studio classes and learned more about careers in architecture, I realized that the education required and the occupation weren’t going to allow me to have the work-life balance I desired, at least initially. My top values weren’t aligned with the career’s top values, so I change my major to pursue career options that did align. This was a very difficult decision for me because I still had a strong interest in architecture and I was doing well in my classes. But, I wanted a major and career that aligned with my interests, skills, and values. As you explore careers, knowing your top values can help you find a major, occupation, and industry that align with those values.
How does one identify their values?
A values card sort activity is a great way to identify your core values. Essentially, you take a deck of cards that has a different value written on each card, and you sort the values cards into 3-5 piles ranging from most important to neutral to least important to you. Take the stack of most important values and rank them into your top 3-5 values. The Good Project has this activity online with virtual cards you can sort.
Once you have identified your top values, reflect on the following questions:
- What values are most important to you, and why?
- What values are least important to you, and why?
- How does it feel when your top values are met? And, when they’re not met?
- Has there been a time when you experienced a values conflict? What was that conflict? Were you able to resolve it, and if so, how?
- What can you do to ensure that your top values are satisfied in your personal and professional life?
- What majors, occupations, industries, and fields align with your top values?
Meet with a career coach to discuss identifying your values and explore majors and careers that align with them!