When we work hard on something we believe in, it’s called passion. When we work hard on something we don’t believe in, it’s called stress. - Simon Sinek
When searching for the next dream job, we often consider factors like the type of work we will be doing, compensation, and title. Too often, we fail to dig deeper and learn what it would truly be like to work in that organization, what the cultural norms are, and whether they align or conflict with our own core values. Alignment will allow you to show up fully at work and thrive. Misalignment can create conditions for stress, underperformance, and disengagement, which may ultimately lead to you quitting or being fired.
Knowing your own core values — those fundamental beliefs that guide your behaviors and decisions — allows you to set boundaries. Boundaries, as defined by loveisrespect, are “where we personally draw the line between what is and is not okay with us.” They indicate how we want to be treated by ourselves and by others. For example, if you value family connection, you may set a boundary that you will not regularly work into the night or on weekends. If the norm of a company is that all hands should be on deck all of the time, that company may not be a fit for you. Whether or not a company is going to respect your boundaries should be a primary concern during any job hunt.
Stand Up for What You Believe In
Whether you are fulfilled in your current role or on the hunt for a new opportunity, defining your core values will help you operate with strength and clarity every day. You will be able to define the choices you make, the company you keep, and what you are willing to stand up for despite the consequences.
Here’s a real-world example. In one particular company, I (Nancy) faced a circumstance that involved my boss asking me to deploy a large marketing campaign that would hurt the business while my boss would personally and financially benefit. Fear set in. This was my boss, so if I didn’t do it, I could be fired for insubordination. But if I did the marketing campaign, it would be unethical. I felt paralyzed.
I had to ask myself what my core values were. At first, I thought of the core values of the company, not my personal values. This wasn’t right. So I sat down with a piece of blank paper and tried to come up with my own, but the words I wrote were not connecting with me. They were nice words, but they didn’t feel authentic.
Finally, for more clarity, I asked myself one simple question: “What are you willing to be fired for?”
Being fired was my biggest fear and, given the scenario, a reality staring me in the face. If I had values that were more powerful than my biggest fear, what would they be? The moment I asked myself this question, the answers came naturally without hesitation: family, freedom, and physical strength.
Was I willing to follow through with the campaign if it meant compromising these three values? The answer was no. If I didn’t follow through with the campaign, would I be willing to get fired over it? The answer was heck yeah!
Boom! I was suddenly grounded in what would become the most powerful foundation of my life. These were my new parameters, my boundaries: family, freedom, and physical strength.
Rather than saying no to the campaign ask, I chose to leave the company entirely. I left without hesitation and immediately found balance with my core values. Since then, I have encountered a handful of similar situations and applied my core value filter each time. Decisions became easier; I was in control of my own destiny. These values are now part of my personal identity. People know they can count on me to always stand up for what’s right instead of taking the easy route.
For more expert career advice, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:
4 Ways to Connect With Your Core Values
How present are you to your values? How intentional are you in making choices that align with your values? How intentional have you been in the past? To find out, consider the degree to which your choices and actions have led you to fulfillment, engagement, presence, and strength — or frustration, fatigue, smallness, and inauthenticity.
Here are four exercises you can use to get in touch with your core values:
Create a checklist of questions that reflect your values to ask yourself when making a decision. Rate on a scale of 1-10 how well the decision would reflect what is most important to you.
Fill in the blank: I have made the decision to ________.
Now, look 10 years — or perhaps just one week — into the future. From the eyes of your wise and knowing self, what is happening? Is this really what you wanted? How are you feeling? Are you operating at your best?
Engage those who know you best, those who hold the vision of who you truly are and won’t be derailed by your shoulds, fears, or sabotaging thoughts. Ask them how well your choice would reflect who you are.
Take a minute. A day. A week. Consider what you really want. If it’s a new job, think — and be honest with yourself — about the must-haves, the nice-to-haves, the extra-cherry-on-tops, and the can-not-tolerates.
How does this potential opportunity fit with your criteria? If it aligns, fantastic. If it does not, don’t try to justify, downplay, or acquiesce. Consider the consequences down the road (see the envisioning exercise above). There is an opportunity out there that will give you what you need and want. Be patient.
Living your life without active consideration of your core values is like paddling a rudderless boat. You might be moving, but you are not moving with purpose. Defining your values will give more meaning to your work, make difficult decisions easier, and lend clarity to your actions in the face of challenges.
Nancy Richardson is the founder and principal strategist of Dragon Lady and CEO of Mom ‘n’ Pop Shop. Rochelle Davidson, CPCC, ACC, is chief embolden officer at Rochelle Davidson Coaching. Their new book, Work Freely: Love Your Job. Love Your Life., is available at WorkFreely.co, Amazon, and other fine booksellers.