After university, graduates often fall into any available position that comes their way. Whilst the lure of a job can be enough for some, the overall and long-term enjoyment of a role is frequently overlooked. This is a sure-fire way to find yourself unfulfilled by your career later in life. This can largely be down to a mismatch of principles. If a position doesn’t match your core values, it’s very unlikely that you will thrive and enjoy your work.
When searching for a job, considering these values is important. Not to be confused with universal values like love, joy and world peace: core values are unique to every individual. The problem is, with little experience of the working world, such considerations are not easy to identify. To make matters worse, these values can change with time.
Fortunately, theory dictates that there are nine key values that exist when it comes to work*. The very least you can do is assess each one to try and identify your top three:
Is maintaining a minimal risk of redundancy, a good retirement plan and a clear progression path important to you? If you harbour ideas of setting up your own business, security is less likely to be important.
Do you hold tangible assets such as money, possessions and a nice house in high regard? If so, your career decisions are likely to be based on earning potential over all else.
Power or influence
If you value power, you’ll want a role that allows you to manage others and make important decisions. If you don’t move straight into a position like this, you’ll want to get there sooner rather than later.
Search for meaning
Do you believe contributing towards a greater purpose beyond individual needs is of utmost importance? This can include tackling issues such as poverty, overpopulation, health and safety, or the environment. Several sacrifices may be made in order to stick to your strong principles.
Would you take a great deal of satisfaction from being seen as the expert in your field? Gaining these specialist skills might include a postgraduate qualification.
Do you value a commitment to people, above the task, position or organisational goals? If so, seek a role around building relationships. You might find that leaving an unfulfilling job would be a challenge, once favourable attachments have been made with colleagues.
Do you want to find ways of expressing creativity through new ideas and procedures? Don’t just look for something arts related, you may enjoy a role where you can address the basic question of how to do things differently.
If you value autonomy, you will need to find a role with the ability to make decisions and not be frustrated by bureaucracy. This type of role will likely involve some self-management and independence.
If you want to be recognised, admired and respected by peers, status is likely to be one of your core values. You might want to mingle with influential people, have certain privileges or even letters after your name. With power and authority, status is more about prestige than control.
Two or three of the above values may really stand out, but it is important to recognise that there is no ‘wrong’ answer. Don’t look for ones you think you should have. If you do this, there’s a strong chance you will end up in a role that gives you little to no satisfaction. Your true values will always emerge one way or another, so be honest with yourself right at the beginning of your career.
*Dave Francis: Managing Your Own Career (1994)