A magnifying glass focused on the words Core Values.

Yesterday I spoke with a class of University of Michigan law students about a myriad of topics including making career related decisions.  One useful tool for that decision making process is what many of my lawyer clients call their “value lens”. 

The feedback from this values-driven process can help you eliminate or at least reduce your second guessing, and guide you to make better informed, more personally satisfying decisions.

Using Your Values Lens is a Straightforward, Two-Step Process:

  • Identify your core values using the exercise below 
  • Look at the decision you have to make and consider how your options align with your core values

For example, if you have offers for two different types of jobs, use a scale of 1-10 to assess how well each of your core values aligns with each position. (1 = very little alignment, 10 = very aligned.) Consider which values are least aligned with your options.  Note: not all of your core values will come into play with every decision or possible choice. 

What does this assessment tell you about how your options fit with what is most important to you? What additional information, if any, would you now like before you make your decision?

By the way, since they are your core values, they come into play in far more situations than just when you face a career related decision. For example, when you feel conflicted about something, use your values lens. If you feel out of sorts, look and see whether your conduct or activities have been aligned with your values lately. Sometimes dissonance arises from honoring one or more values to the detriment of another.

Using your values lens to identify what’s going on helps you see and understand the issues more clearly. Armed with this insight, you can start taking action.


How to Identify Your Core Values – A Core Values Exercise:

Below is a Core Values Exercise I give to my clients.  If you search online for values exercises, you can find a multitude of similar lists.  Core values exercises relate to your whole life, not just your professional life. 

  • Choose 10 values from the list below. Choose the values that call to you, the words that resonate with you, not the values you think you should have.  Listen to your gut.  Don’t overthink. 
FairnessFaith FamilyFame
Inner HarmonyInnovationIntegrityJoy
  • Narrow your 10 values down to five and list them. If you are really struggling between two values, consider which value you treasure the most in others.
  • Narrow your choices down to three and list them.
  • Tip:  Don’t worry about the definition of each word.  Let the words mean whatever they mean to you as you read them.
  • Tip:  You may find it easier to group some values together and perhaps assign the grouping one word that represents that value group.  For example, I have a very strong pull for a group I call my integrity/honesty/fairness/justice value. 

The Bottom Line:  Use Your Values as a Guide

To make better, more personally satisfying decisions the next time you have to make a career decision, or you have a choice of actions to take unrelated to your career, use your core values as a guide. 

Keep a list of your core values close by and practice identifying when they are in play in your day. Consider also how you could honor more of your core values in your day/week/month/life. Fit it in while you drive, take a shower, or work out.

For example, if collaboration is one of your core values, and you’re giving it a 2 because you rarely collaborate anymore at work or at home, start thinking about small steps you can take to raise it to a 3 or a 4. Move it there and then raise it again. Small steps, people!

If you would like a sounding board to help you make a decision, or simply help identifying and working with your core values, I’d love to work with you. Please contact me.


Sample Questions in Areas Where Your Values Lens May Help You Make a More Personally Satisfying Decision:

Should I continue participating in this organization?

Which organization should I join?

Do I really want to be a partner at this firm?

Should I fire this client?

Should I accept this new client?

Should I invest more time in this relationship?

Should I buy this house?

Which job offer should I accept?

Should I accept this job offer?

When should I start a family?

Should I follow up with that person?

Should I start looking for another job?

Should I speak up or refrain from saying anything about this situation?

Should I first pay off all my debt?

Should I develop a niche?

Should I ask for a raise?

Should I get a new car now or next year?

Should I pivot and switch career paths?

Should I accept this invitation to speak on this topic, or write on this subject?

Should I quit this job before I find a new job?

Should I move to Colorado?