We constantly hear that our work must be aligned with our values to have a fulfilling and successful career. That’s is of course great advice and I believe it’s one of the most important things that needs to be in place for you to really thrive in your career.

However, what does it actually mean? I realized that many people don’t understand the meaning of that phrase, so I want to bring some light into the darkness with this blog post.


The Work Level

Let’s first look at the work level, which means the responsibilities you have and what you do in your job.

Let’s say you are working at an organization as a manager with a few employees who report to you. You work in the sales department and you are leading a team of sales representatives.

Your daily work includes lots of reporting to your boss, staff meetings, sales calls and sales meetings. It’s rather repetitive work and you have very clear guidelines how many calls have to be made and how many sales meeting have to happen per week.

Now let’s also imagine you are somebody with lots of energy. You have the urge to do new things and you value diversity and freedom the most. You thrive in an environment where no day is like the previous one and where lots of unexpected things come your way.

How do you think you would feel working in such a job? It’s a clear mis-alignment between your values and your work.


The Organizational Level

Let’s say you are working as a manager at a large corporation in the tobacco industry. You have a very challenging job and earn a good amount of money. You have lots of responsibility and generally enjoy your work.

However, something is missing inside of you. The organization simply does not inspire you because you feel it has lost its purpose. There is lots of talk about values, mission and vision within the organization but at the end of they day, you can’t seem to make sense of it and you don’t feel it’s real.

Let’s imagine you deeply care about sustainability and health. You do lots of sports in your free time and eat very healthy. Some of your highest values are health and making a difference.

How well do you think is the organization aligned with your values? You have just discovered why you feel something is missing.


The People Level

Let’s say you are working in the banking industry. You are responsible for business development.

The people around you are mostly materialistic and can seem a little greedy sometimes. All they talk about is the new car they just purchased or how much money they made off the last deal.

Now let’s imagine you live a rather minimalistic life. You have a few luxuries in your life but what really matters to you is fulfillment and helping others. Some of your highest values are family and mindfulness.

How are your values aligned with the behavior of the people you are surrounded by in this environment? Obviously, you don’t feel great in such a surrounding.


What Happens if Things are Not Aligned

So why is having work, organization and people around you aligned with your values such a big deal?

Well, first of all, because not having them aligned is one of the major causes of burnouts. If you work in an environment 8-12 hours per day that drains your energy, either because of the actual work, the organization or the people, it’s going to have a bad impact on your health.

You are also going to have a lot less energy when you come home from work. Maybe you are cranky and constantly in a bad mood, even if things are great at home. That has an influence on your family and friends.

It also impacts your career growth. If work, organization or people are misaligned, you are not going to perform at your best. Therefore you won’t get the pay raise or promotion.


When Work, Organization and People Align with Your Values

That’s the ultimate goal. If you can align the three areas with your values, you are not just going to be fulfilled but you thrive in your career.

Think about it, how do you feel if all the areas align?

You feel energized, you feel excited to go to work, you feel inspired by the organization and the people and you love what you do. As a result, you bring your full potential to work and instead of merely showing up for work, you are dedicated to making a difference.

That results into creating massive results for the organization, also for their bottom line and because you are highly appreciated and valued in such an environment, you get promoted, get a raise, get more responsibility and feel even more empowered.


How to Align Your Work with Your Values

First of all, make a list of your values. That’s going to be the starting point to make sure your work is aligned with your values. You can only align your values if you know what they are. Or as Peter Drucker said “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”.

Once you have figured out what’s really important to you and what matters most to you in life, you can go out there and look for the work, organizations and people who are aligned with your values.

Start with writing down what you would be doing every day in a job that aligns with who you are. What responsibilities and tasks would you have?

Then, write down what kind of cause the organization has to pursue in order to inspire you. What purpose does the organization need to have to light the fire within you?

Last but not least, define the values, qualities and characteristics of the people you love to work with. This can be your boss, peers or clients, they are all important in your daily work life.

Don’t let your career master you, master your career.


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