By: Gina Anselmo, former career advisor for the DePaul University College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

What is important to you? What gives you a jolt of motivation to dive into a work task or embrace a new role or career path? The answers to these questions are often food-for-thought, especially when considering work values.

Values in general are beliefs held in high regard and related to all aspects of a person’s life. Values help us guide decision-making and give us the incentive to take action. Work values are the principles that are important to a person’s job satisfaction. Understanding your work values can help support a foundation of what’s important to you and what contributes to your definition of meaning and success.

Why Consider Work Values in Career Exploration?

While skills are important and part of your professional identity, work values are equally important and can often be a good place to start. Work values can help you with the following:

  • Understand what is important in terms of job satisfaction
  • See how a job and organization align with your definition of career satisfaction
  • Evaluate work roles, job opportunities, and overall fit
  • Provide a framework for assessing options

Taking a Beat – Reflective Exercises

It’s important to always take a moment to press rewind and consider past experiences as points of reference. Remember, you are the best judge of the principles that serve as key criteria for your career exploration. Take a moment to respond to the following:

  • Share a time you felt motivated in a job or internship. What contributed to feeling energized?
  • What activities bring meaning and impact to your life?
  • Can you think of a time you felt a sense of accomplishment? What made this experience feel like a triumph?
  • Can you think of a pivotal moment that helped shape the person you are today?
  • How do you define success?

Consider this: After you have responded to these questions, circle any words that stand out or reoccur. What keeps popping up? Are these keywords important in your work and work setting? Have these been missing from past experiences or always there?

Taking Stock – Exploring Essential Values

After a bit of reflection, and building a case for what values ring true to you, try to determine which values can serve as your essential values. Essential values are those that energize you and would be difficult to give up or not have in your work. To help you identify your essential values, consider this self-assessment.

Calling in Reinforcements – Work Place Culture

Workplace culture is the character of an organization and comes from the organization’s mission, values, energy, and interactions. The vibe that an organization gives off can set the tone for engagement, happiness, and satisfaction among professionals and it goes hand-in-hand with identifying your work values.

I was able to interview professionals from a range of settings and industries who weighed in on their work values and investigated the culture of an organization. Here is a sneak peek of some of my findings.

My Advice to You When Exploring Work Values

Take ownership in defining what each value means to you and how you want to put your stamp on it. Think about how your essential values are collectively important rather than putting pressure on yourself to rank them. Remember, work values are a piece of the Professional Identity pie! Your values, interests and skills are equally important, and should be considered when defining meaningful work.


Are you interested in strengthening your understanding of work values? Consider meeting with your career advisor, checking out online values exploration resources, and connecting with ASK mentors to hear their perspectives on integrating work values in the job and internship search.