• The pandemic prompted many to reassess what matters to them and what they want their life to look like

  • Career coach Claire Brown encourages identifying your values to help you make the best career decisions for you

  • We have coaches available to support you here

Living through the pandemic has resulted in a radical shift in how people view their careers. It has brought about an opportunity for many to reassess how they really want their future to look. Many have considered whether they’re on the right path and are increasingly making the connection between what they do on a day-to-day basis and their overall sense of happiness and satisfaction in life.

Employees are embracing the revelation that they are more than just their job, reflecting a greater commitment to pursue meaningful, purposeful work that is truly fulfilling. So, how do we go about finding what that work is in order to achieve career satisfaction?

What are values and passions and why do they matter?

The extent to which we’re able to express our values and passions in our work is intrinsically linked to our sense of happiness and fulfilment. When your values align with both your role and your working environment, you are more motivated, engaged and happier in your professional life. Knowing your values and passions and being able to embody these is essential to career satisfaction and ultimately to your sense of success.

This is because our values are fundamental to who we are. They are the beliefs that inform our thoughts, actions, decisions and behaviours, whether we’re aware of them or not. Ultimately, they provide a clear sense of who we are and what matters most to us. Our passions are often an extension of our values and might take the form of a particular activity, idea or cause.

What difference does it makes when you’re clear about your values and passions?

When you know your values and passions, you have an evidence base to draw from that can help you to make much better career decisions. You can begin to create your own ‘career criteria’ from an informed position which enables you to evaluate to what extent potential opportunities will provide you with the best possible fit. It’s the equivalent of having a guidepost or compass as you navigate your way through an unfamiliar journey.

What if you don’t do work that aligns with your values and passions?

When you’re unhappy in your professional life, this can range from a mild sense of dissatisfaction all the way up to stress, anxiety and overwhelm, feeling completely lost or even total burnout. This, of course, has the potential to spill over into all aspects of life and can impact your performance as well as your health and relationships.

Workplace stress and job satisfaction are intrinsically linked, so it can be difficult to identify whether the feelings you're experiencing are as a result of burnout or a lack of fulfilment and frustration in your job. That’s why having a point of reference is so beneficial. It’s worth getting analytical and reflective to consider whether the root cause of your frustration is values-related.

If you find yourself:

  • unable to express your values 
  • limited in your ability to use your skills and strengths
  • limited in your ability to learn, grow, develop, pursue your passions and your own sense of success

These could indicate that your main concerns are values-related. In this case, the work itself may not be the best fit for you and it might be a time for a change.

How do you know when your values aren’t aligned to the work you do?

The most common reason clients come to me for career change coaching is because they have this deep-rooted sense that something’s ‘not quite right’, a nagging feeling that can be difficult to articulate or pinpoint but won’t go away. As we dig deeper, it becomes clear very quickly that their values and passions are not aligned to the work they’re currently doing. When you’re not able to express your full self in your professional life, this can have a far-reaching impact.

How to identify your values and passions

If you aren’t 100% sure what your values and passions are and how they might inform your career satisfaction, begin by carrying out some simple exercises to pin-point these further.

You can start by carrying out a ‘scanning exercise’ to identify your work values. Google a long list of value words, see what stands out for you and circle those that most resonate with you. Then rate them on a scale of one to ten. Reflect on the highest-rated values, filter these down to your top five and place them in order of importance and priority.

Here are some questions you might like to pose to yourself:

  • To what extent, does my current role enable me to express my values and what’s important to me?
  • What do I find fulfilling or meaningful in my work?
  • How does my current work enable me to pursue my sense of success?
  • How does my current work fit with my long-term life goals / aspirations?
  • What do I want to be able to say about my work life / career in a year’s time?

If you could change some specific aspects of your current work situation, would this facilitate a change of perspective towards your job? Or would you need to completely redesign your role in order for it to be truly fulfilling and a good fit for you? 

Be analytical about the source of your frustrations. The more specific you can be about the root cause of your concerns, the more enabled you are to take action that will help you to move forwards.

By aligning your values and passions with the right context and opportunity, you’re much more likely to find satisfying work that enables you to achieve career success.

Claire Brown is a life and career coach

Further reading

What do coaching and psychotherapy have to do with leadership?

Bored of procrastinating? 5 tips to move your life forward

6 habits to thrive in life and work

Interview with Jenny Rogers: how coaching works

5 things you should look for in your coach