How to Define Your Personal Values at Work

personal values at work

How do you center your personal values at work?


How do your values align with your career decisions? Do you consider your personal values when making life decisions? 


Okay, that’s enough questions for now. In this post, we’re going to talk about personal values and how they can be the key to finding the best career for you.


Whether you’re looking to change careers, change your job function, or find an organization that fits your larger goals, I have some tips for identifying and activating your career values.


Spoiler alert: Once identified, your personal values might just unlock an unexpected career path that you hadn’t thought about yet! 


The Benefits of Centering Your Personal Values at Work

What’s the big deal with personal values, anyway?


Surely, we all have an idea of what matters to us, right? Do we really need to make such a big deal? The answer, of course, is a resounding yes! A working awareness of your personal values at work is precisely what will lead you to the best professional decisions.

A healthy understanding of your personal, values has a huge ripple effect, including:


  • Building a healthy foundation in any professional venture
  • Guiding your networking
  • Growing a satisfying and rewarding career
  • Avoiding burnout, boredom, and disengagement

Aligning your career decisions with your values often provides a profound sense of purpose and meaning. When your work reflects what you believe in—whether it’s integrity, creativity, social justice, or innovation—your job becomes more than just a paycheck. It becomes a reflection of who you are. 


The “Paycheck” Job Versus Values Job

We’ve all worked jobs for the main goal of the paycheck.


Before I get into this, let me get one thing out of the way. If earning a certain salary is your prerogative, there is nothing wrong with that!


These “paycheck-first” positions tend to be the least rewarding jobs, even if the number on the check is attractive. The good news is that you can still get the nice paycheck, but why not also have a job that continuously motivates?


Questions to Ask Yourself:


  • What salary do I need to make?
  • Can I assign a dollar amount to having a better work-life balance? A better boss?
  • Would I rather have a higher paycheck or a job that reflects my values of ______ better?

Make Better Decisions

Integrating your values into your career choices enhances decision-making. When faced with ethical dilemmas or crossroads in your career, having a clear set of values guides you in making choices that resonate with your principles.


This clarity reduces internal conflict and ensures that your actions and decisions are consistent with what you believe is right and just. 


Questions to Ask Yourself:


  • What are some bad career decisions I have made in the past? What values was I centering when I made bad decisions?
  • If I could change anything about my job today, what would it be? What values does that reflect?
  • Have I ever worked on any projects or for organizations that break my own ethical codes? Why?


Built-In Prioritization = Authenticity

Moreover, prioritizing values in your career promotes authenticity and integrity. It lets you be genuine in your interactions with colleagues, clients, and stakeholders, fostering trust and respect.


Authenticity builds strong professional relationships and enhances credibility as others recognize your commitment to principles beyond profit or success.


Questions to Ask Yourself:


  • How can I center my value of _______ when interacting with my colleagues?
  • How can I bring my value of _______ in small ways every day?


Achieve Sustained Motivation

Additionally, when your career is aligned with your values, you are more likely to experience sustained motivation and resilience.


Challenges and setbacks are inevitable in any career, but a values-driven approach provides inner strength and resilience. It allows you to persevere through difficult times because you are driven by a deeper purpose that transcends immediate obstacles.


Questions to Ask Yourself:


  • When was the last time I felt truly motivated at work?
  • What organization best reflects my personal values at work? Is there a way to bring that to my current position?


Examples of Personal Values at Work

Career values are principles or beliefs that guide your professional decisions and actions. They reflect what is important to you in your work life and help you prioritize goals and make meaningful choices. 


Here’s a list of career values that many people center in their careers and lives. Do any of these resonate? 


Making a Difference


  • Integrity: Acting with honesty and transparency in all professional interactions.
  • Ethics: Upholding a strong sense of right and wrong in decision-making.
  • Diversity and Inclusion: Working in an environment that respects and values diversity.
  • Environmental Responsibility: Working for organizations that prioritize sustainability and environmental stewardship.
  • Innovation: Being part of an organization that fosters innovation and embraces new ideas.
  • Impact: Making a meaningful difference through your work.
  • Community: Feeling connected to and contributing positively to your community through your work.


Work + Life Balance


  • Flexibility: Having the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and work arrangements.
  • Job Security: Feeling stable and secure in your position.
  • Work-Life Balance: Maintaining a healthy balance between work responsibilities and personal life.
  • Creativity: Having opportunities to innovate and think outside the box.
  • Quality: Focusing on delivering high-quality work and products.
  • Health and Well-being: Working in an environment that promotes physical and mental well-being.
  • Belonging: Being a part of a company that values you as a person.


Growth + Professional Development


  • Professional Growth: Continuous learning and development to advance your skills and knowledge.
  • Autonomy: Having independence and the ability to make decisions in your role.
  • Challenge: Seeking roles and projects that provide intellectual or creative challenges.
  • Collaboration: Working effectively with others and contributing to team success.
  • Leadership: Having opportunities for leadership roles and responsibilities.


Financial Rewards + Recognition


  • Recognition: Feeling valued and appreciated for your contributions.
  • Financial Reward: Being compensated fairly for your contributions and achievements.
  • Awards: The ability to win awards or public recognition for projects.

These values can vary greatly from person to person, and your prioritization of them may change throughout your career.


It’s essential to periodically reflect on your career values to ensure that your current role and organization align with what matters most to you professionally and personally.


How to Find a Workplace That Matches Your Personal Values

From a broader perspective, organizations that prioritize values tend to cultivate healthier work environments and stronger cultures.


Employees who feel their values are respected and integrated into the workplace are more engaged, productive, and loyal.


This positive culture attracts top talent and enhances the organization’s reputation, contributing to long-term success.


Centering your values in your career isn’t just about personal satisfaction; it’s a strategic choice that enhances your effectiveness, resilience, and overall success.


By aligning what you do with what you believe, you create a career path that is fulfilling and fits your lifestyle.


Next time you choose a new career path or evaluate your current one, considering your values should be a fundamental part of your decision-making process.


career values cards