Do you feel unhappy in your job, even though it pays well?

Did you finally land what you thought was your dream job, but you’re now second-guessing it?

Do you love your co-workers, the easy commute, and the perks—but still dread going to work?

You’re not alone.

Just like many professionals today, you want more than just a paycheck or a job that looks good on paper. You want meaning, purpose, and for your daily work to align with your values.

Over the past several years, people have changed how they look for work, choose jobs, and build value-driven careers. Here, I talk about how–when you align your career with your personal values–you can powerfully transform your life, from job satisfaction to productivity and success, and overall life happiness.

You can have a career that makes you feel as good as you want (you deserve it)!

Hot air balloons rise in the sky

Why Values Matter in Your Career

Values are the principles that guide your actions, decisions, and how you move about this world at large. When you align your career with your personal values, your work can become more than a job – it can become a vocation.

Take Sarah, a junior lawyer who left her old firm to pursue a new path that aligned with her deep-rooted value of “Justice for All.”

In her previous position, Sarah felt like a legal cog in a corporate machine, missing that spark of purpose. However, when she joined a nonprofit dedicated to providing legal aid to underprivileged communities, her world transformed. Sarah’s dedication to justice shone brightly. By fighting for those who couldn’t afford legal help, she not only felt fulfilled but excelled at her work. With her newfound passion, she led a team of legal experts, winning cases and changing lives.

The impact was significant! Sarah’s efforts not only helped countless families stay in their homes, but also ignited a wave of pro-bono initiatives across her community. Her value-driven career choices didn’t just make her happier, but made the world a better place.

Moral of the story: Know your values and what is important to you. Values are largely unconscious, and at the deepest level, they drive your true purpose. If you already know your values, write them down in a list. Then ask yourself, “What is important about X value?” and write the answers down. Look at your reasons, and use them to rank your values in order of importance to you. You can see what’s most important to you, and use that list to help you make career choices that align well. If you don’t already know your values, never fear! The next section helps you with identifying them!

cream text on black background reads "dream big"

Identifying Your Core Values

Now before you can align your career with your values, you need to know what your values are. Identifying your core values is like discovering the treasure map to your happiness. It’s an exciting journey, and here are four action steps to get you started:

1. Reflect on Past Work and Life Experiences

I always ask my candidates, “which position did you like the best and why?” Take a trip down memory lane, and think about moments in your life when you felt truly fulfilled and content. What were you doing? Who were you with? What made those experiences special? These moments often hold clues to your core values. Maybe it was volunteering, creating art, or helping a friend in need. Recognize patterns in those happy moments, and jot down the common themes.

2. Ask Yourself Tough Questions

Dive deep into your thoughts. Ask yourself thought-provoking questions like, “What matters most to me in life?” “What principles guide my decisions?” and “What do I want to be remembered for?” Don’t rush; let your thoughts marinate. Write down your answers, even if they seem contradictory at first. As you reflect, you’ll start to see the recurring values that are truly important to you.

3. Seek Feedback from Trusted Loved Ones

Sometimes, others see us more clearly than we see ourselves. Reach out to close friends, family members, or mentors and ask them what they believe your core values are. Their insights can offer a fresh perspective and help you uncover values you might not have considered. Plus, it’s a great way to strengthen your connections.

4. Take a Free Character Strength Test

On my site, I offer you the chance to take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths at no charge to you. It only takes about ten or fifteen minutes to complete, and at the end, you get an objective assessment of your strengths and can help you pinpoint the values that are most important to you.

Remember, identifying your core values is a journey, not a destination. Be patient with yourself, and don’t be afraid to revise your list as you grow and evolve. Embracing your core values will guide you toward a life that feels authentically yours, full of joy, and aligned with what truly matters to you.

hand holds a compass pointing north in front of a forest of trees


Aligning Career Choices with Personal Values

Once you’ve identified your values, the next step is to weave them into your career choices.
Here are three action-packed steps to help you get there.

1. Don’t Apologize For or Compromise Your Values

Once you know what truly matters to you in life, whether it’s creativity, family, sustainability, or something else entirely, stand powerfully in that truth. Be crystal clear about these values because they’ll be your guiding stars. Next, evaluate your current job or potential opportunities. Do they align with your values? If not, don’t panic. Instead, brainstorm ways to integrate your values into your current role or future career. It could mean proposing new projects, volunteering, or seeking mentorship in your desired field.

2. Negotiate Like a Pro

When you find a job or a company that’s a great fit, but needs a little tweaking, don’t be afraid to negotiate. Advocate for yourself! Discuss how your unique skills and values can benefit the company and contribute to its mission. Negotiation isn’t just about salary; it’s about shaping your role to align with what matters most to you. Be prepared, stay confident, and find common ground with your employer. Remember, it’s a win-win when your values align with your workplace.

3. Make Strategic Moves

Sometimes, aligning your career with your values means taking bold steps. If your current job doesn’t align and negotiation isn’t feasible, consider exploring new opportunities. Look for organizations or roles that mirror your values. Attend industry events, network, and reach out to professionals in your desired field. Seek guidance from mentors who’ve made similar moves. As you make strategic career moves, keep nurturing your skills, and stay open to growth opportunities. Your path to a perfectly aligned career may involve detours, but each step brings you closer to your goal.

A group of 3 people laugh as they sit at a table with laptops.

The Impact of Values Alignment on Job Satisfaction

Aligning your career with your values isn’t just a feel-good move; it can turbocharge your professional life in so many ways, such as these three examples:

1. Unleashed Passion

When your career aligns with your values, it’s like turning on the turbo boost for your passion. You wake up excited to tackle the day because your work resonates deeply with what matters to you. Your enthusiasm becomes contagious, inspiring those around you. This passion fuels your creativity, problem-solving abilities, and overall job satisfaction, making each day a thrilling adventure.

2. Increased Motivation and Resilience

Let’s say you’re facing challenges at work, as we all do. But when your career aligns with your values, you’ve got an extra dose of motivation and resilience in your toolkit. You’re not just working for a paycheck; you’re on a mission. When setbacks occur, your commitment to your values keeps you going. It’s like having a secret superpower that helps you overcome obstacles with grace and determination.

3. Enhanced Well-Being

The harmony between your career and values has a profound impact on your well-being. It reduces stress and burnout because you’re doing what feels right and fulfilling. This balance allows you to maintain a healthier work-life integration, fostering personal happiness and overall life satisfaction. It’s not just about the job; it’s about creating a life that you love, one where you thrive professionally and personally.

4 people work together in a conference room

Overcoming Challenges in Value-Centered Career Building

So, you’ve decided to align your career with your values! Congratulations! You won’t regret it. However, like any grand adventure, this one has its fair share of challenges, and I want you to be ready to face them head on. I don’t have space to go into all possibilities here, but I’ll start you off with three common ones, and give you a few tips on how to overcome them.

1. Finding the Right Company Fit

I get it–finding the perfect company for you is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. The good news is, if you’ve already identified your core values, you’re halfway there! All you have to do is find an organization who shares them! I know—sometimes that’s easier said than done, but here’s the secret: go out there and ask for help! Tap into your network on social media, in person, or even over email, phone or text. Obviously, if you’re currently employed, I recommend being stealthy. Maybe have a friend do a post on your behalf. But the trick when posting is to be specific. Ask for exactly what you want, from position to company, to pay range, to values…whatever you want, speak up and claim it!

2. Financial Hurdles

Money talks, right? Sometimes, your dream job might pay less than your current gig. It’s like a financial obstacle course! But here’s what you can do so the fear of losing a little money doesn’t stop you in your tracks: first, give yourself permission to find money in other ways if you have to, and to also give up certain expenses. It can be scary to let go of a good, solid paycheck, but remind yourself that you will be okay. You can always figure it out. Then, assess your finances and create an honest budget. Cut where you can (but don’t get too aggressive, otherwise you might inadvertently put yourself into another struggle). Explore ways to bridge the gap, like taking on freelance gigs or part-time work. And remember, everything is temporary. You can always change anything you need to as you go along. Short-term sacrifices can lead to long-term fulfillment.

3. Naysayers and Doubters

Ah, yes, the doubters and the naysayers – those who question your career choices. It’s like trying to steer a ship through stormy waters while folks on the shore yell, “Turn back!” Well, here’s what I want to yell to you instead: Stay strong! You can absolutely do this. And you deserve it, too! Everyone deserves to be happy and pursue the career they want; it’s just that not everyone is as brave as you! So surround yourself with supportive people who understand your vision. Let their words of encouragement fill your sails. Yes, you have all the power within yourself that you need to do hard things, but it always helps to make sure the voices you’re hearing around you are sharing messages of positivity, and don’t give any energy to people who are trying to bring you down. You’re not the first (or last) person to go after what you want. You just keep at it, and let your passion be your anchor!

In the end, aligning your career with your values is a rewarding quest. Keep your eyes on the prize, be flexible, and don’t forget to celebrate your victories along the way. You’ve got this, and your values will light the path to your dream career!

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