Fresh out of College? Keep your Values Close on the Job Hunt

By Michael Dunlop
July 18, 2022

While the pandemic has been challenging to navigate, it helped us reflect on our choices. We realized that we need to find meaning in our work, be respected for our diligence, and prioritize happiness. To accomplish this task, you need to find a company that reflects your own values.

When high school and college graduates make that leap into the job market, it can be quite overwhelming to figure out where to start. Aligning aspirations, as well as skillset, is the sure-fire way students can ensure that they land a job they like and feel comfortable in. No matter what people want to do, their values as people must always be foregrounded.

What are Work Values?

Our work values are similar to our personal values, except they are directly tied to our jobs. For example, if you love to listen to different perspectives, you’ll want to look for a diversified and inclusive workplace. If you’re creative, you should gravitate towards art-based professions.

However, some values may not translate directly to the workplace or maybe too vague. For example, respect comes in many forms. If you want your boss to respect your time, you need to find an employer that offers flexibility. You need to know what you want to get what you need.

Why are Work Values Important?

Have you ever had a friend or romantic partner that didn’t align with your values? While you can come up with a compromise that suits both parties, it’s hard to keep both parties happy unless someone genuinely changes. But, genuine change doesn’t happen overnight, if at all.

Our values are important to us. When we aren’t living through them, we feel unhappy, maybe even guilty. We’re much happier when our value system aligns with those close to us.

Job satisfaction is largely determined by how your values align with your work environment. That’s why it’s very important to find a job that fits your personality. You should identify your work values, so you can understand what fulfils your professional and personal needs.

What are the Three Work Value Categories?

Our values are separated into three categories: intrinsic, extrinsic, and lifestyle. By using these categories, you can start to understand what’s important to you and your future career goals.

Intrinsic Values

An intrinsic value looks at a workplace environment and what keeps you motivated. If you find a job that satisfies one or multiple intrinsic values, you’ll have no problem making your way to work, even when you’re in a bad mood. Here are 3 examples of common intrinsic values:

Project Variety: Do you get bored easily, or can you do the same tasks repeatedly?
Competitiveness: Do you thrive or struggle in a competitive environment?
Feedback: Do you need to be recognized, or are you okay with a lack of feedback?

Find the “inside qualities” that make your work meaningful to you, besides external rewards.

Extrinsic Values

An extrinsic value is what you’re awarded for a job well done, after a milestone, or for simply showing up at work. However, most extrinsic values revolve around the benefits you receive or the conditions set in your workplace. Here are 3 examples of common extrinsic values:

Remote Work: Do you need to work remotely, or do you prefer the office?
International Travel: Do you like to travel for work, or would you choose to stay home?
Autonomy: Do you want a micromanager or a trusting employer?

Your external values play a big role in your ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Lifestyle Values

Although lifestyle values intersect with your intrinsic and extrinsic values, these relate more to your personal values. A lifestyle value determines where you want to live, where you want to be, and how you want to spend your free time. Here are 3 examples of common lifestyle values:

Living Abroad: Do you want to leave the U.S. to find a better job/life?
Saving Money: Do you need a job that pays well, so you can save money?
Family Time: Do you have a family? Will you have free time to spend with them?

A positive lifestyle will improve your mental and physical health, so prioritize your happiness.

How Do I Use My Values to Find a Job?

Once you’ve made a list of work values that matter the most to you, cross-reference them the next time you’re applying for a job. Research what all potential employers value by looking at their websites and social media. Speak to current and past employees, if possible.

When you make it to the interview stage, ask questions about their company culture. Be sure to talk about leadership values and conflict resolution strategies. You’re going to make mistakes, but if your employers are respectful of their feedback, you’ll likely thrive at the company.

Although your values matter to you know, they may change with time. It’s important to remain flexible and adjust accordingly. Or, you could focus on values that are likely to remain constant.

Featured image: jacoblund, iStock.