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Changing Careers? Know Your Values First

Changing Careers? Know Your Values First

This guest article on changing careers is written by Sarah Marshall, an accredited Life and Career Coach who works with women to help them transition into jobs that they love and build portfolio careers.

When we think about changing careers, it usually brings to mind all the practical steps we need to take, for example updating our CV and reaching out to recruiters. We often don’t take the time to do some of the ‘inner work’ to make sure we are setting ourselves up for the best success possible before we even start. Thinking about your personal values might not be at the top of your list, but this is why it should be.

So what are values and why do you need them?

Your values are the things that are important to you. They guide your choices and the way you live your life. Values are things like: happiness, integrity, responsibility, security, recognition and freedom. They are your north star, your guiding light, your principles, or your beliefs. They help you to make better decisions about your future and to notice when and why things are not feeling like a good fit for you.

Why should your values apply to both your life and your career?

We often prioritise our values in our personal lives but can neglect them at work in favour of just getting on with things and assuming that work is different. However, that shouldn’t be the case. It’s just as important to live by your values in the workplace as it is when you’re at home or with friends. Most companies have their own core values that are their guiding principles, which they encourage their colleagues to follow. They will use these to shape their decisions and build their company culture.

What happens when you’re not aligned with your values?

When you are living and working out of alignment with your values, it can have a profound impact on how you feel and how you show up at work and in your relationships. You can lose motivation, lack interest, feel frustrated and generally out of sorts. It can feel subtle, or it can be really noticeable and can be challenging to face on a daily basis. In some cases, it forces you to act differently at work and not show your true self. For example, if one of your values is independence, but you have to be in the office 5 days a week and work 12-hour days at a desk, then it is likely that this will be a struggle for you.

Why is it important to revisit your values when changing careers or jobs?

Throughout our careers we will evolve, and our priorities in life will change, both in and outside of work. Therefore, it’s important to revisit your values regularly to make sure they are still relevant to who you are today. Doing this exercise can also be a great reminder and a reset for when you’re looking for your next job, so you can make sure the companies you are applying to are in alignment with your values too.

So how can I figure out my values if I don’t know what they are?

Here is a simple exercise you can do to work out your values.

Before you start, remember that there are no right or wrong answers. Try not to judge what comes up for you or feel like you have to pick a certain value based on other people’s views. Often we can mistake our core values with learned ones that have come from external influences. Finally, remember that this exercise can take time and some thought, so you can revisit it whenever you need.

  1. Brainstorm a list of all the things that are important to you in your life and career. Try to make a list of at least 30. To help you, reflect on pertinent times throughout your life and career to date.
  1. Narrow down your top 5 core values from this list which are the most important to you. If you’re struggling to choose, compare 2 together and ask yourself, if I could only have one of these, which one would I choose?
  1. Once you have narrowed them down to your top 5, reflect on how they’re showing up (or not) in your work, your personal life, your relationships, your social life, etc.
  1. Focus on where you’re out of alignment at work and think about what shifts you could make when you’re changing careers to make sure that all of your core values are present.

You now have a list of your 5 core values which you can use to guide you during your career change.

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