The Preparation

Finding your values

By Michael "Dr. Woody" Woodward, PhD

In my first blog post, I talked about the importance of answering five fundamental questions designed to help you take charge of your college and career life. The first three questions focused on the value of introspection. I truly believe that in order to effectively navigate college life and develop a career direction, you really need to know yourself first.

When it comes to knowing yourself, you have to start with values. The personal values you cling to inform the everyday choices you make. Values can be thought of as the principals or moral standards you hold near and dear. Your values act as a compass to guide you in uncertain times. They are the rules you follow and the ethics you adhere to when dealing with others.

The unfortunate reality is that most of us can’t readily articulate our values. Whether working with executives, high school principals, or college students, whenever I ask about values the response is usually the same, a puzzled look coupled with a touch of embarrassment. Values aren’t something we tend to think much about, yet they are so critical to how we live.

So, how do you assess your values? Doing a quick web search for values checklists will provide a lot of results. I also have a values checklist in my book, The YOU Plan. The key to using any adjective checklist is taking the time to narrow down your list to your top five and then put them in your own words. This is a much tougher challenge than it seems because it requires making tough choices. However, it will help you prioritize what you really do value.

A good way to test your values is to ask yourself three questions:

•    Am I willing to fight for it?
•    Am I willing to sacrifice for it?
•    Am I willing to pay for?

If you are not willing to fight, sacrifice, or pay for something then you have to question whether it truly is one of your values. The bottom line is simple, when pursuing an internship or career opportunity it’s important to understand the role your values play in the decisions you make. Every organization has its own unique culture driven by a set of core values. These values often come from the organization’s founders or executive leaders. It’s up to you to understand what these values are and determine how well they match with your own. There is no worse feeling than being in an environment where your values are misaligned with that of your employer.

Any good career and life plan starts with introspection. A critical component to the introspective process is assessing your values. Assessing your values starts with selecting your top five and then asking yourself if you are willing to fight, sacrifice, or pay for them. Once you have put your top five in your own words, go out and investigate those internship and career opportunities that best align with your values.

Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a coach and author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy. Dr. Woody is president of the consulting firm HCI, sits on the Academic Advisory Board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership, and holds a PhD in organizational psychology.