Career Values: How To Identify Yours and Cultivate Success as a Professional

Knowing your values will help you develop a clearer sense of whats most important to you in life. A value is a belief and a priority that is meaningful to you and that influences both your actions and reactions. Values can serve as your guiding force, especially when making decisions and pursuing options that lead to happiness, including career options.

10 Career Values – Why we work, what motivate us

Why are career values important?

Career values are important because they can help set the parameters for your personal satisfaction and accomplishment as a professional. By identifying your own values and what matters most to you, you can be intentional in your career search and use your values to shape your path forward. This is a key step in understanding your preferences and finding a role that adequately meets your needs. Keeping your values in mind, you can more effectively evaluate whether a certain role is the right fit for you and envision your ability to thrive in such a position.

Its common for professionals to face challenges in harnessing their energy toward cultivating success when working within positions that dont adhere to their career values—these unmet needs and overarching tenets can become obstacles to productivity. Therefore, finding a position that meets your needs and coordinates with your values is key, as doing so can allow you to focus your energy on mastering your duties, promoting innovation and evolving your skills. Even further, if you can find a role that aligns well with your career values, its likely that youll be able to nurture fulfillment both professionally and personally.

What are career values?

Career values are personal principles that help define your ideal professional environment. These values typically describe the environmental and role-dependent characteristics that you find most important in fostering job satisfaction, career advancement and success. Career values differ from person to person, as each professional typically has their own preferences in terms of work style and environment. For instance, if you prefer to work in a collaborative role with flexible hours and independence, you may value creativity, flexibility and autonomy. Comparatively, another professional may value the ability to work in a high-level, influential role with various challenges and opportunities to achieve.

Most professionals, regardless of their personal preferences, attempt to align their career choice with their values. It can be challenging to find and secure a role that ascribes to all your career values, but recognizing your needs can make a significant difference in your professional achievement. These tenets can guide you to find a role in which you can produce high-quality work, develop professionally, foster the type of lifestyle you aspire to and meet other relevant goals you set for yourself. With this, determining your career values can be a helpful step in acknowledging your overall goals, desires and purpose.

Types of career values

There are various types of career values to consider when identifying your own. The three major categories of career values are intrinsic, extrinsic and lifestyle values. Heres an explanation of those three categories and the various values they respectively encompass:


Intrinsic career values are those factors that create personal meaning within your role. These values are typically separate from external rewards, like compensation or recognition, which focus on the consequences of your work. Rather, intrinsic values refer to those factors that possess value in their own right, usually because they align with your particular work style preferences and needs. Here are a few intrinsic values explained in terms of how they may fit into your career:


Extrinsic career values are those external rewards you receive for the work you perform as a professional. These values may be separate from internal values, or those that help you create meaning. With this, you can find a role extrinsically valuable without finding meaning or intrinsic value in it. Some professionals find extrinsic values more motivating than intrinsic ones because of their apparent tangibility and the ability to earn increased value through high-quality work. Here are a few extrinsic values explained in terms of how they may fit into your career:


Lifestyle career values are those factors that contribute to your quality of life outside of work. While intrinsic and extrinsic values may influence your quality of life, lifestyle values can define your work-life balance and ability to find fulfillment beyond your professional role. Some professionals believe lifestyle career values are highly important, whereas others may conceptualize these values as less significant depending on their particular preferences. Here are a few lifestyle values explained in terms of how they may fit into your career:

How to identify your career values

There are various methods you can use to determine your career values depending on your particular experiences as a professional. Heres one method you can use as a guide to identify your values in six steps:

1. Reflect on your past career experiences

You should begin the process of identifying your career values by reflecting on your past career experiences. It can be helpful to consider the career values you appreciated in your past roles and, comparatively, those factors that became professional obstacles over time. Reflecting upon the type of experiences youve had and how theyve shaped your success and gratification as a professional can help you better understand your needs in terms of work environment, work style and lifestyle. For example, it may be relevant to consider experiences in which you felt fulfilled and ask yourself what factors led to that fulfillment.

2. Analyze your experiences

Once youve gathered a collection of relevant past experiences through your reflection, try to analyze those experiences and draw conclusions about the values that defined them. For instance, perhaps you can recall an instance in your past role where you exceeded expectations and didnt receive acknowledgment for it from fellow team members and management. If this experience felt challenging, you may conclude that recognition is an important career value to you. Comparatively, if you truly enjoyed a past role that gave you various opportunities to problem-solve and practice innovation, you may conclude that you value creativity in your career.

3. Perform a self-assessment

After contemplating the general presence of professional values in your career through reflection and analysis of your experience, you can perform a self-assessment using a list of possible values. It may be helpful to use a list similar to the one above and circle those values that stand out to you. You may choose to circle values that remind you of the experiences you reflected upon or other values you havent encountered yet in your career but want to focus on going forward. You can choose as many values as youd like during your self-assessment.

4. Prioritize five to 10 values from your assessment

Once you complete your self-assessment and have chosen various values from the list, you can narrow down your choices by selecting five to 10 values that are most important to you. Consolidating your list of career values can help you focus more easily on those factors that will impact your professional satisfaction, success and overall lifestyle contentment going forward. From here, you can prioritize the values that result from your consolidation.

5. Define those values personally

After consolidating your values and selecting five to 10 values to prioritize, you should attempt to define those values in terms of your personal needs and preferences. This is an important step that can help you understand how such values function specifically within the day-to-day execution of your role and duties. Through this process, you may find that one value you want to prioritize relates to another, which can help you develop a deeper understanding of the type of work environment you need to cultivate success.

For instance, you may define adequate compensation to support your family as an extrinsic value that relates to your lifestyle need for a family-friendly and flexible work environment. Recognizing this intersection of values can help you rank and recognize their importance accordingly.

6. Rank your values by importance

Once youve defined your values through a personal lens, attempt to rank those values by importance in descending order. Place the most important value at the top of your list with the least important value at the bottom to help you visualize their significance in your career search. This process can help you negotiate the career values youve selected through your self-assessment and acknowledge which of those values may be non-negotiable.

This can guide your overall career search. For example, if you rank benevolence very high and recognition less so on your list of values, you may want to be intentional in seeking careers that allow you to help others through altruistic methods while still receiving recognition periodically. Comparatively, if you rank them inversely, this may guide your career search differently.


What are some values for a career?

Intrinsic career values are intangible motivators that make people love their careers. Some common intrinsic values are achievement, commitment, contribution, equality, honesty, independence, respect, responsibility, power, and status.

What is the most important career value?

Many things can contribute to job satisfaction. According to a 2012 research report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) on Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement, the top two factors ranked as important in job satisfaction where 1) an opportunity to use skills and abilities and 2) job security.

What are the top 3 values at work?

  • A Strong Work Ethic.
  • Dependability and Responsibility.
  • Possessing a Positive Attitude.
  • Adaptability.
  • Honesty and Integrity.
  • Self-Motivated.
  • Motivated to Grow and Learn.
  • Strong Self-Confidence.

How do I find my career value?

One way to identify your career values is to look at a list of examples and rate how much each of the items matters to you. Rate the list on a scale of one to ten. Then examine some of the highest-rated values and choose six to 10 that should have the greatest weight when considering career and alternatives.

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