How to determine your career values and achieve job satisfaction
Athabasca University counsellor offers insight into career values; take a fun quiz to determine yours!
November is Canada Career Month and this year’s theme is “amplify.” This month, Athabasca University’s (AU) Counselling Services team is sharing career–focused resources for students and alumni to help them grow and advance their careers.
In the post-pandemic world, many people report feeling unhappy in their current careers. But is a lack of job satisfaction reason enough to leave a job? It’s a decision not made lightly, and it’s often cloaked in trepidation, confusion, and frustration.
How does one achieve job satisfaction? Is it even possible?
The answer is yes! It can be done by understanding yourself and how you relate to the world of work through values, interests, and skills. There is a lot of emphasis placed on interests and skills—you’ve likely taken an aptitude test or career assessment to determine what those are—but the most important factor, career values, is often overlooked.
This article explores career values and the important role they play in job satisfaction.
What are career values?
Not to be confused with morals and values, career values are personal principles that help you feel satisfied in a job and find meaning in your work. They’re the driving force behind career progression and can help you narrow down the massive array of job possibilities before you.
There are two different types of work values: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic values cover definition of your work and the types of tasks you enjoy rather than the external circumstances of it. Extrinsic values are more tangible things like benefits, wages, and hours. They are external to you and not connected to how you work or the content of said work.
Career values differ from person to person. For instance, you may want a high degree of flexibility more than a set schedule, or to contribute to the betterment of society more than a high wage. Once you understand what’s important to you in a job, you’ll understand what motivates you and which career paths will or will not provide that motivation.
Discover your career values
Now that you know what career values are, it’s time to discover your own. For the more logical and analytical, ALIS, the government of Alberta’s career website, offers a free work values quiz.
For the more creative, grab a piece of paper and a pen and follow the guided exercise below.
Imagine you’ve been granted the ability to live five alternate lives. You can be anything you desire in those lives, there are no rules. If you want to be a dragon, you can be a dragon. If you want to be a rockstar, you can be a rockstar! What would you be? List the five lives you’ve chosen with space to write in between.
Okay, great! Now, why did you choose the first life? Why would you want to be or do that? Write it down and be descriptive. Next, answer the same question for the four remaining lives.
At this point, you will likely see some themes begin to appear. Your reasons for choosing these five lives directly relate to your career values!
For instance, if you wanted to be a bird because birds can fly and have the freedom to roam the sky, you likely desire flexibility and/or autonomy in a job. If you wanted to be a top neurosurgeon because they’re very important and make good money, you likely want prestige and a high salary.
By imagining ideal, imaginary lives for yourself, you’ve defined your own inherent career values without even knowing it!
Prioritize those values
Now that you’re aware of what you value in a career, it’s time to prioritize those values into a top five. At the start of your career, it’s not always possible to achieve all your career values. But, if you can attain a couple of your top values, you can then align the trajectory of your career path to take you to a place where you have all five.
Identify careers that align with your values
It’s time to use your newfound knowledge as a lens through which you look at the world of work. When exploring industries that align with your interests and skills, use your values to determine if a role or career path will give you the job satisfaction you desire.
If some of your top-five career values include creativity, flexibility, and autonomy, but the career duties and responsibilities are very regimented, detailed, and unchanging, that career path will likely not lead to job satisfaction.
If you’d like to explore more about how career values can help you pick a program, you may book an appointment to meet one-on-one with an AU counsellor.