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Succeed in the workplace
Succeed in the workplace

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3 What do I really want from work?

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Figure 4 Satisfied or dissatisfied?

As this course progresses you will be taking charge of your own career choices and decisions, rather than leaving them to chance, or to other people. This is important because although others might help you in your career, it is in your interests to take more control over it.

You made the first step towards this in Activity 2. Now, working from these initial thoughts, you’ll think about what it is that you really want from work.

Remember to keep a record of your thoughts in your own notebook, as before.

Activity 3 What do I value about work?

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

Listed here are a number of factors that will help you to recognise in more depth than in Activity 2, what you are satisfied with, and what you are dissatisfied with, about your work. Each of these implies something that you value. So, for instance, if ‘Making friendly contacts with others’ is important to you, it suggests that you value a SOCIAL element in your work.

You might be surprised by the range of possible factors of what could be important. This is one of the advantages of taking a course like this one. It opens up your thinking and suggests options and ideas you might not have considered alone.

Identify now how important each factor is to you by using the following scale:

  • 4 = Very important
  • 3 = Important
  • 2 = Less important
  • 1 = Not important

Base your ratings on the description of each factor in column 1 and try to use the full scale. Copy Table 1 into your notebook or you can download the Resource pack [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   for the course and complete it there.

Table 1 Values
FactorsValue Rating (1–4)
Making decisions, and working independently  Autonomy
Change or variety in tasks, people, placesVariety
Scope to learn, study, think, analyseIntellectual
Making friendly contacts with others      Social
Large income, expensive possessionsEconomic
Expressing ethical code or religious beliefsSpiritual
Using talents, developing skills  Using abilities
Being part of an important organisationCommitment
Having lots of stimulus, excitement, thrillsExcitement
Having influence or power over others  Authority
Enjoying or making beautiful designs or things    Aesthetic
Getting promotions, career progressionAdvancement
Helping or caring for others         Altruism
Concern for surroundings or locationComfort
Being original, developing new ideasCreativity
Activity, keeping moving, handling thingsPhysical
Taking risks; business and trading             Commercial
(Adapted from Career planning and job-seeking workbook, page 30, Open University Careers Service.)

Next, write down the values that you scored as most important (those at 4) and those you scored as least important (at 1 or 2).

For example, if you scored ‘Having influence or power over others’ as 4, then write down 'Authority' under a heading called ‘Most important value’ in your notebook.


Clearly, different kinds of work will reflect different values, so it is helpful to know what matters to you. For instance, someone who places a lot of value on altruism might seek out work helping others, but be less comfortable with work where commercial value dominates. If you prize physical aspects, then work that involves being sedentary for long periods might be more of a challenge.

In the same way, how or where the work is done might satisfy some values over others. A manufacturing company, a charity, a newspaper office, a local authority or a financial institution will each have a different ‘feel’ as a place to work. Try to think through which would suit you best.

In the next section you’ll think about your answers to Activity 3.