Clarifying your personal values is a critical step toward understanding your own definition of success, finding new career options, evaluating specific organizations to work in, and understanding how to change your current work situation to make it more meaningful and fulfilling. The process gives you a deeper sense of what makes your life meaningful and helps you see how certain career decisions affect your life. Knowing your values makes you resilient. Just like that storm-lashed tree with deep roots, a person with strong core values doesn't bend every which way the workplace wind blows.
This test is designed to help you identify your core values and craft a work life that is consistent with them.
While it's difficult to separate your work life from your whole life, think only of your work life when choosing values for this test, since your career is what you're considering now. You may realize that you crave autonomy and variety in your work life but that those values aren't as high a priority in your personal life. Later you may find it helpful to use this test to prioritize your nonwork-related values, too.
Values are highly individual; therefore, there are purposely no definitions given for the words following. Each word means something different to different people. Reflect on what each value word means to you. Think about whether or not you want that particular value to influence your current and/or future decisions regarding your work. Photocopy the test pages before you begin so you can retake the test in the future. Circle your ten most important values.
Adapted with permission from Mark Guterman and Terry Karp of the Bay Area Career Center, San Francisco, CA (
Defining Your Values
Write your top ten values in the following spaces. Then write a few words or a phrase about what that value means to you. Be as specific as you can. If you want to list a value that is not included in the list, record it on this page and write a definition that's meaningful to you. As you write your definitions, also answer the following questions.
Is this value critical to my job satisfaction? (Circle the C for Critical or NC for Not Critical next to each value word.)
Is this value present in my current work situation? (Circle P for Present or NP for Not Present next to each value word.)
Pay particular attention to any values that you labeled “Critical” and “Not Present” in your current work situation. Write all the value words you marked “Critical” on the chart on page 178.
Mapping Your Values
In the following ValueSearch™ Map, there are eight value categories defined and connected to a cluster of values. Read the definitions for each category.
Most people can categorize their specific values as indicated on the Map. However, your personal experience or value definitions may reflect a different category than those shown here. Balance, spirituality, and family are examples of values people often move to different categories. Highlight or circle each of your top ten values in the suggested categories only if the category represents your personal definition of the value. If another category feels like a better fit, simply write the value word in that category.
Now see if your values cluster in one or more categories. If they do not cluster, go back to the value word list and select your next ten most important values. Categorize those values on the Map.
Universality (U): Understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protection for the welfare of people and nature.
Benevolence (B): Concern for the protection and enhancement of the welfare of people with whom one is in frequent contact.
Tradition (T): Respect, commitment, and acceptance of the customs and ideas that one's culture or religion expects of individuals.
Security (S): Desire for safety, harmony, and stability of society, relationships, and self.
Power (P): Attainment of social status, prestige, influence, authority, or leadership of people and resources.
Excitement (E): Seeks pleasure or sensuous gratification. Enjoys unpredictability and variety in life.
Achievement (A): Desire for personal success or accomplishments; need to demonstrate competence in everday life.
Self-Direction (SD): Pursues independent thought or action. Enjoys the ability to choose, create, and explore.
Values, as you now realize, strongly influence your behavior, decisions, and actions. This process of defining and mapping your values can help you better understand how your values can influence and motivate your career decisions. A simpler way to understand your values is to see the Map as being composed of four value types (see the following). Write the word for the value type that most closely resembles you on the chart on page 178.
Outer Layer Definitions:
Self-Transcendence: Combines values of universality and benevolence, which motivate people to transcend selfish concerns in order to promote the welfare of others and nature. Possible careers include nonprofit organizations, helping professions, or management positions enabling you to mentor or coach others.
Working on a well-functioning project team or for a company or department with a compatible organizational culture may also satisfy these values.
Openness to Change: Combines values of self-direction and excitement, indicating a desire by individuals to follow their own intellectual and emotional interests in unpredictable and uncertain directions. Many creative people fall within this category, as well as those who value intellectual challenge and stimulation. Flexibility may be an important factor for your career satisfaction. You may find it appealing to have some degree of variety or unpredictability in your life.
Conformity: Combines values of tradition and security, leading to a desire to preserve the status quo and the predictability this provides in relationships with other people, institutions, and traditions. If your values cluster in this area, stability may be quite important to you. You also may need to have a clear sense of your job's required tasks and responsibilities.
Self-Enhancement: Combines values of achievement and power by indicating a desire of individuals to enhance their own personal interests. If your values fall into this category, you may need to perform a job that is quite challenging or work where you can feel as if you are accomplishing something. Also, your career satisfaction may be dependent on the opportunity for increasing levels of responsibility and/or power.
Connecting Your Values to Your Work
The purpose of this exercise is to help you evaluate how well your values are integrated into your work situation right now. It also provides you with an opportunity to consider what action steps you could take to align your career more closely with your most important values.
1. Which of your highest priority values are being realized in your current work situation?
2. Which of your highest priority values are lacking in your current work situation?
Write these values on page 178.