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3 Ways to Align Your Values with Your Career

Career, Therapist Guide
5 min read
Indian male working at desk on laptop

Who’s heard of the “Sunday Scaries?” It’s the feeling of dread that creeps up on a Sunday night when you know that tomorrow you’ll be turning in your weekend freedom for the 9-5+ grind. The truth is, whether you’re a victim of the "Sunday Scaries" or not, as adults, we spend a large percentage of our lives working. In fact, according to Jessica Pryce-Jones’ research that she covers in her book Happiness at Work, on average, workers spend about 90,000 hours working in their lifetime. 

That’s a lot of time to spend doing something that you don’t believe in or feel connected to. 


Work to Live or Live to Work?

In my work as a career counselor and therapist, I’ve found that time and time again, people eventually lose interest in unlimited PTO and on-tap IPA if they’re stuck doing a job or working for a company that doesn’t align with their values. In the end, people want to be doing something each day that they can stand behind, and that fits their ideas of how the workplace, and the world, should work. But don’t just take my work for it; research supports value alignment as one of the most important factors in job satisfaction. 


So how do we take steps to align our work with our values?

1. Get clear on what you believe in.
  • Figure out exactly what your values are and which ones are most important. 
    • Name both your personal values (general things that we hold in high regard and believe in like honesty or loyalty) and your job values (more specific things that we look for within a work environment like transparent leaders or equitable treatment). 
    • Which are necessities and which are nice to have? 
  • Review your past working experiences to reflect on where you felt most aligned with the company’s mission or way of running, or what you were doing there.


2. Identify what your values look like in action. Once you have a sense of what your values are, start thinking about how they would play out in a work environment.

  • For example, if one of your top values is sustainability, are you looking for a job in the direct-to-consumer (DTC) industry, you might look for a company who uses recycled packing materials or encourages customers to re-use bottles. 
  • Another example may be that if you prioritize wellness, you may look for a company that specifically encourages employees to take mental health days, and has leaders that lead by example. 


3. Do your due diligence. Finally, it’s time to match the company to what you’re looking for. 

  • Identify your target organizations and look for employee reviews.
  • Connect with either past or current employees to learn more about what its like to work there.
  • Develop a couple of questions to ask during an interview process that will tell you more about the company’s values.
    • Ex. If I care a lot about diversity, I may ask whether the organization has Employee Resource Groups and how long they’ve had them. I may also ask about their current plans for diversity recruiting or the initiative they’re most proud of in terms of supporting a diverse workforce.
    • Ex2. If I value work life balance most, I may ask when people typically leave the office at the end of the day. I may inquire what type of process is in place to help employees find coverage for time off or how the company’s leadership supports equitable workloads.


Target Your Search

At the end of the day, a proactive and informed job search is the best course of action to align your values with your career. However, if you’re not sure your current organization is a fit, or if you’re considering a pivot, it may be helpful to seek support. 


Reach Out For Support

Career coaches can be great assets during periods of exploration or transition in your professional life. My colleges offer career counseling to their alumni, or you can find independent career coaches via services, articles, or directories.


About the author: Grace Huntley is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in NY who provides telehealth counseling to self-aware overachievers in their 20-30s who are striving toward self-love.  As transracial adoptee and first-generation college student, Grace has always been interested in helping others navigate uncertain paths, specifically when they're experiencing a lack of social capital to guide them. Grace’s approach is collaborative, stemming from a belief that the client is the expert on their own life and experience. While she’s comfortable working with a diverse range of clients and issues, areas of specialty are career and transitions, emerging adulthood, anxiety, depression, romantic obstacles, and trauma. Her goal is to help clients gain insight into their "whys, wheres, and whens" to promote self-awareness and reduce negative patterns of thought and behavior. Learn more about Grace and view more of her work on her Frame profile.