Looking to change jobs? Start with core values

Why start with core values?

The first task I assign my coaching clients who are looking to switch jobs or careers is to assess themselves holistically — focusing especially on their core values and on what fulfills them most.  As we continue on in our coaching journey, clients get more and more narrow, like a funnel, but I always start at the very top of the funnel – seeking to understand ourselves holistically. 

The things that fulfill us most, and our core values, are at the top of this funnel of assessment, so to speak, because they are applicable to everything in our lives.  Whether we’re interacting with others – forming relationships – or picking a new career path, both of these come into play.  We simply cannot fully express our highest versions of ourselves if we aren’t aligned with our core values.  And aligning with what fulfills us gives us the greatest chance of true happiness.

It comes down to this:

Knowing what’s most important to you is the key to loving what you do. 

That’s why it’s critical to ensure we understand what our core values are, and what fulfills us most, before we move on to figure out what job suits us best.



Why is this so hard?

When I was a child, I was raised to be seen but not heard, to be known mostly for an impeccable report card and to raise exactly zero trouble for my parents.  That means that my entire focus was always on others – on pleasing my teachers, pleasing my parents, and pleasing anyone on whom I needed to make an impression.  Getting in tune with myself, with what fulfills me, with who I am and what my core values are, was hard work that I only began to do in my early 30s.  It required significant soul searching, and time to think about what I really love in life. 

If you’re anything like me, getting in tune with your core values, and with what fulfills you most, might be the hardest part of a job search journey.  It’s such a difficult task because many of us were trained at an early age to do what other people want us to do.  Many of us are raised to be people-pleasers.  We’re out of touch with what we love, with what brings us satisfaction – we’re much more in tune with how to make others happy, with following other people’s visions of success and happiness

Your happiness – your fulfillment – is a top priority.  It should be at least as high as the top priority on your to do list. 



Let’s start with core values.  The term itself sounds a little wishy-washy, a bit too “out there,” too nebulous for my liking.  So let’s start by defining it.

Your core values are the qualities of life that you find most attractive. They are expressions of your Self and allow you to feel truly fulfilled – today and long-term.

Each person lives according to a set of core values, whether she realizes it or not.  These values follow us everywhere, through every decision, judgment and action.  The most effective values are ones that are clearly defined, and that are explicitly used as frameworks within which to make decisions.  Less effective values are ones that are implicit, less well understood by their owner, or are regularly overridden.  Regardless of how strong or weak they are, most people have a set of values that guide their lives.

Although they may not be super explicit, we are generally familiar with living according to our values in a personal setting, especially when it comes to relationships with spouses, friends, and family.  We shy away from forming bonds with others who have incompatible values.  We raise our children to have a solid set of values – good manners, ethics, rule-following.

The problem now, though, as adults, is that we sometimes fail to honor our core values when choosing a job – or while in role — at work, especially when the stakes are high.  Although you might feel the fear of expressing your core values at work, know this – core values are critical both in your personal and in your work lives.

Moving on to what fulfills you most – similar to core values, fulfillment comes from deep within and applies to all areas of life – work, relationships, friendships, volunteer activities, etc.

The word fulfillment is pretty loaded.  It sounds important, big, dense.  But the reality is that sometimes what fulfills you most is the smallest, simplest, most peaceful of things.  What fulfills you can be having the time to see the sun set every evening on your walk home.  It can be having the time to bathe your infant child without worrying about work.  It can be playing video games.  It can be solving big problems or small.  Be open to it.  Embrace that possibility.  It’s a beautiful thing, in fact – it allows you to be so much more fulfilled in your life.



Activity: figure out what your core values are

Sit with a journal, blank piece of paper, or a word document on your laptop. 

Write down your core values – aim for 4-6 max.

To guide you, start by thinking about what drives your everyday decisions.  What forms the lens through which you see the world?  What characteristics of life are most important to you?  What really bugs you when it’s violated? 

When completing this activity, I recommend you take some time beforehand to meditate or sit quietly to clear your mind.  This requires serious introspection and focus, so sit in an area where you’ll be uninterrupted, and give yourself at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted time to complete this task.  Turn your phone and emails on silent and get to work.

If you get stuck, refer to the Haven Coaching core values list for inspiration.



Need more 1:1 guidance? Click here to schedule some time with me — I’d love to chat and help you love what you do.

Haven Coaching