Thursday, 31 March 2011

Revisiting Your Values can Clarify your Career Path

Some people know exactly what kind of work they want to do and can pursue it.  The rest of us don’t necessarily have that certainty.  The good news, according to Anita Houghton in her book, Finding Square Holes: Discover who you really are and find the perfect career, is that specific career choice is not as crucial as you think.  That is because the things that people find important about their work tend to be general rather than specific.  For example, you may value working with people, overcoming challenges, intellectual stimulation or being creative.  These things are general enough that they can be found in a variety of different jobs.  So if you are an ex-pat living in a new environment, don’t limit yourself to the label of your old job but be open to exploring different avenues where you could find or revisit the values that make you feel fulfilled.

The first step is to identify your values. Value clarification is an honest assessment of who you are, right now in your life.  Thomas Leonard, author of The Portable Coach and founder of Coach University and Coachville, does a good job of making the distinction between needs, wants and values. 
 He says a need is something you must have in order to be your best, such as time, space, money, love, information, food, exercise, or tools.  Usually, getting a need met causes you to feel satisfaction.
A want is something that you relate to by trying to acquire or experience it, such as a vacation, a promotion, a gourmet meal, sex, a good book, a new car.  Usually getting something you want makes you feel gratification.
A value is something that you naturally gravitate toward, prompted from within and not be needs or wants.  However, the same thing can be a need, a want or a value for different people or for the same person at the same time. So Leonard offers these guidelines to help draw the distinctions: If there is urgency, it is probably a need; if there is craving or desire, it’s probably a want; if there is a natural uncomplicated pull, it’s probably a value.

When a person is true to his or her self, that self can be defined by a clear list of values.  This helps you escape the should-have, could-have, ought- tos in life. It helps you make sure you are living your values and not the values of others. Sometimes the things we believe to be our values are actually the values of our parents, our mentors or teachers and not our own. Carl Jung once said that nothing affects the child more than the unlived dreams of the parent. When you honestly assess your values, the next step becomes clearer. Career coach Carole Pemberton offers some questions to help you do that    

A simple way to identify your values is to think of peak experiences in your life, moments when you felt on top of the world and completely yourself.  They might be professional or personal, but by reflecting on what aspects of those experiences made you feel this way, you can identify your values.  As a career coach, when I hear a client sharing good work experiences from their past I can help them spot how their values emerged and were fulfilled.

Skill identification and value clarification go hand in hand and every positive experience will have both.   Richard Bolles, author of What Color is my Parachute? says,” When clients identify the skills they like the best and the values they seek most, they have a language for talking to themselves and others about what they are looking for in the world of work.” That is exactly what job seekers need in order to start developing their profile, elevator speech and interview stories.

Identifying your values is a perfect activity to do in the nice weather when you can get outside to a park or go on holiday to a beach and really think about these things.  You can create the space to spend some time and come up with a list. Once you have that list you can place the top six values on a wheel and then colour in to what percentage you are currently living that value.

The key point to keep in mind about values is that implementing them energizes everything concerned with it. For an individual, committing to and applying values releases fresh energies, which always attract success, achievement, and well-being. Likewise, when companies or other institutions adopt values, individuals working at the organization become energized, as do its customers, its products and services, and everyone and everything else associated with that organization.

Roy Disney once said,It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” If you were in touch with your true values, how would that change your career path and even your life?

For a tool to help you clarify your values click here