2 Knowing what I have to offer − values
There are several elements that are important to consider when determining your personal brand. In this section, you’ll focus on your values.
Many careers professionals will begin a discussion about occupational choice by focusing on your values, as several studies have shown that values often align with occupational preferences.
For example, it has been found that individuals preferring, choosing or attaining business occupations were generally high on utilitarian orientation and material values; people choosing medical occupations, social work, and teaching appeared to be high in social values, in particular on altruism.
Mind Tools defines values as ‘the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work’ (Mind Tools Content Team, n.d.). The more closely you can align your values with the way you live and work, the more satisfied you are likely to be.
Gayle Johnson is a freelance copywriter and coach, who has consciously built her business around her values. Here, she explains why that was so important to her and how it has worked.
Activity 2 Identifying my values
This activity is an exercise that is commonly used in values work. Gayle has used it herself and with clients, and refers to it in this short video as she explains why understanding your values can help you differentiate yourself from others doing the same work.
Step 1: Spend a few minutes thinking about times when you felt happiest, proudest, most fulfilled, or as Gayle puts is – ‘alive’, ‘on fire’ and ‘working at my best’. You can include examples from both your home and work life. Use the box below to record your notes if you need to.
Step 2: When you have reflected on those occasions for a few minutes, consider the values that best represent why those times in your life made you feel so positive and list them in the box below.
The following image will give you some ideas of values, but if you think of others that fit better, add them to your list. If you’re running out of ideas, there are numerous lists of core values available online – type ‘core values’ into an internet search engine to find them.
Go with your initial reaction to each word. Don’t overthink it.
Step 3: Narrow down your list to between three and five core values and list them here.
Your core values will already be reflected in what you do and what you say when you are comfortable in your environment – but identifying and labelling them in this type of exercise can help you to ensure that they are more visible professionally, and can have an influence on your decision making. They should hold a prominent position in your personal branding.
As Gayle explains, knowing your core values can also help you to feel more comfortable about what you have to offer and how you operate. There might be several people in your organisation who do the same job, but none of them will have exactly the same approach to it as you and that is what makes you unique.
Understanding the values that are important to you will help you to recognise good career opportunities when they arise. If you’ve already done the thinking, it will be easier to see if a particular role aligns with what you feel is important. For example, if you chose ‘wealth’, salary will be a serious consideration. If you value ‘individuality’, a work environment that requires you to conform might not be a comfortable one.
This can be a challenging exercise so do seek support if you need to, either from a careers adviser or coach, or from one of the people on the list you made in Activity 1. Mind Tools offers an alternative version of this exercise that includes a tool to help you prioritise your core values if you’re struggling. Find it.
Many of us don’t take the time to deliberately think about our values, yet we all have them and they guide what we do. You might feel that your values are clearly expressed in your home life, but what about at work?
In the first video, Gayle Johnson talks about using your values as anchor points to come back to, and this can be helpful when you’re making career decisions.
Aligning your job with your values can be an important element of job satisfaction. For example, if you are someone who strongly believes in accountability, but you have colleagues who seem to get away with making mistakes and blaming someone else, that can make you angry, unhappy or demoralised.
If you are self-employed and your values include freedom and independence, that should be a good match.
If you plan to use your personal branding to find a job that gives you greater satisfaction, clearly communicating your values, to those in your network and beyond, is a good way to start.
In the next section, you’ll look at another important element of your personal brand – your strengths.