Finding your core values isn’t just good for guiding your life, its good for guiding your career too.
When it comes to making career decisions, we’ve all been to “the dark side.”
Endless pro-con lists. Sleepless nights. Emotional rollercoasters. Circular conversations. Worrying if this is our “one shot” while simultaneously wondering if we’re settling or worth more. Trying to balance the shiny components of the offer, maintain a level head, remember to negotiate, and keep every other generic piece of career advice front of mind.
Cue confusion, anxiety, doubt, and fear.
But what if there was a way to ensure that every decision you made in your career was in your best, long-term interest? What if you could wade through the emotions and momentary elation and get down to brass tacks: Will this work for me or is this just another distraction?
In the moment, it can be so difficult to separate what really matters from how we are currently feeling. After all, no matter if we’re being offered the CEO role or a part-time consulting position, there are so many emotions at play.
It’s human nature to feel compelled to pursue something that we’re offered. Even if the offer is coming from left field (hello, Mr. CMO, would you like to design a logo for me?) there’s something about an opportunity showing up on your doorstep that begs the question: Am I supposed to take this?
That’s how I wound up in a job with a steady salary, health insurance, and a 401k plan, but zero personal meaning, fulfillment or impact. It wasn’t until the morning after I was told “this just isn’t working out” that I started to ask myself if there was a better way to make our decisions.
That moment was a catalyst in my career. Over the last six years, I’ve worked with hundreds of high-potential professionals who have spent countless hours, days, and even weeks mulling over a career decisions, only to ultimately get it “wrong.”
So how do you make career decisions that feel effortless in the moment AND lead to long-term, sustainable success? Here’s my 3-step method for “easy button” career decisions.
Define your personal (or familial) core values.
As Hamilton said, “If you stand for nothin’ Burr, what’ll you fall for?”
What most of us don’t realize is that every one of our decisions speaks to that which we value. Where you spend your time, how you spend your money, and who you surround yourself with tells the world (and yourself!) what does and doesn’t matter to you. What we fail to understand is that if we don’t set those values in advance, then our decisions are largely dictated by the emotions of the moment as opposed to our deeply rooted values which lead to longer-term success.
That, my friend, is a recipe for disaster, or for being fired.
So, take the time to figure out your Top 10 core values. Brainstorm everything in your life that matters to you. Then group those items in lists of similar values. When you’ve reached 10 or fewer groups, give each group of values a name that encompasses all of those values. Put those values in order from 1-10, with 1 being the most important and 10 being the least. Boom! Now you have a blueprint for what matters to you.
Use your values to create career commitments
Core values are often deliberated over, then never spoken of again. Ask any CEO who’s been to a leadership conference. To avoid this, don’t settle for values. Instead, use those values to create personal career commitments. Use these two questions to guide your clarity:
What must I say NO to because of this value?
What can I say YES to because of this value?
Write down at least one commitment for each of your 10 values. If you value integrity, perhaps you commit to ZERO shady business practices, period. If you value family, perhaps you commit to not working during dinner and bedtime and never working weekends, period. The key here is to create COMMITMENTS not PLATITUDES. These are serious, yes-or-no, life commitments you’re making to yourself and anyone who depends on you.
Compare EVERY offer or opportunity against your commitments
What’s the easiest way to avoid confusion in the moment? Know what you stand for before the moment happens.
The next time opportunity comes your way, don’t pour over the salary or the signing bonus or the moving package. Instead pull out your trusty list of core values, and start at the top. Keep this SUPER simple so as to avoid overwhelm and spending any unnecessary time considering an offer that’s not a good fit for you.
Simply ask yourself, one by one, “Does this choice align with my core values or not”?
I’ll give you an example.
One of my Top 5 Core Values is FREEDOM from which I’ve made the commitment of choosing when, where, and how long I work.
So, if a dream company called me tomorrow, offered to buy me out of my business, do the exact same role for them, make double what I’m making now, pay for my move, and give me an amazing office, BUT required me to be in the office from 8 am to 6 pm daily starting with 2 weeks of vacation, guess what….
I could easily, without losing sleep, without agonizing, without writing a pro-con list, and without an anxiety attack, calmly and rationally say thanks… but no thanks. Unless they are willing to let me work the hours I choose, on the days I choose, in the place I choose, I’m not doing it.
The key to making easy-button career decisions is knowing your non-negotiables well before the decision has to be made. If you’re struggling to make clear decisions in your career and feel confident about those decisions while you’re falling asleep, then consider getting clear on your values, transforming those into commitments, and evaluating everything against what you already know matters to you.
You can thank me for the extra sleep later.
Tracy Timm, left her job on Wall Street after realizing she was working a career she had no interest in, and since then has spent her time helping people realize their potential, find work they love, and make meaningful impact all at the same time. Tracy is the author of our Unstoppable: Discover Your True Value, Define Your Genius Zone, and Drive Your Dream Career (CLICK HERE to get your copy).
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