Core values are personal ethics or ideals that guide you when making decisions, building relationships and solving problems. Identifying the values that are meaningful in your life can help you to develop and achieve personal and professional goals. It can also help you find jobs and companies that align with your ideals.
In this article, we’ll discuss what core values are with examples, how to identify them and how you can use them to advance your career.
What are core values?
Core values are a set of fundamental beliefs, ideals or practices that inform how you conduct your life, both personally and professionally. Businesses can also have and maintain core values. These can help an organization determine how to allocate resources, make important decisions and grow.
People and companies typically select a set of 10 or fewer core values to focus the ways they hire and maintain staff, approach daily business practices, conduct communications and more. These values can inform how people interact (humility, respect, honesty), the focus of a person or business’ work (ingenuity, creativity, data-driven) or the individual responsibilities one will hold (consistency, quality and reliability).
Identifying core values for yourself or within a company can provide structure and guidance, especially when dealing with a challenging decision or dispute. If one of your core values is honesty, for example, you would refer back to it when deciding whether or not a certain piece of information should be kept secret.
Common core values for the workplace with descriptions
The ability to work in a way that is most conducive to performing at your best is something both you and the company may value. As an employee, you may want to feel empowered to make decisions and take action. Many companies prefer to give you the flexibility to work at your own pace and in your own way as long as you continue to meet satisfactory performance standards.
Valuing integrity in the workplace means that you strive to do the right thing, even when you think no one is looking. You may also value honesty, transparency and a commitment to doing what’s best for your clients, customers, teammates and company.
Challenge yourself to see what’s possible to better meet the needs of your team, your customers and your company. You are a work in progress, striving to improve and do better. Think of creative ways to solve tough problems. Take calculated risks. Finding new ways to solve a problem moves the company
Many people and companies believe that the growth of a company comes with the professional growth of the team. Valuing growth means that you have to drive to continuously improve both yourself and the business. Growth is based on mutual success. If you value growth in the workplace, you might want to look for a company the develops their staff and provides an environment that fosters personal and professional development.
Being service-minded or customer-oriented means that you care about providing a quality experience to the clients you serve. This value can also extend to include supporting your community and your team. Valuing service means that you aim to provide a meaningful experience to the people you serve and support.,
More examples of core values
Below is a list of core values employers might look to when building and maintaining a successful workplace. You can also use this list as inspiration when deciding on your own core values, planning answers to interview questions or understanding the core values of others:
- Hard work
- Meaningful work
- Time management
- Work ethic
How to identify your personal core values
If you’re unsure about what your core values are, it might be helpful to take time to reflect on what’s important to you. It might take many moments of reflection over time to clearly identify your core values, so be patient and attentive to what motivates and drives your thoughts and decisions.
To get an idea of what your core values might be, consider your answers to the following questions:
- What kind of culture do you want to work in?
- What environment, settings or resources are necessary for you to do your best work?
- What qualities do you feel make strong, healthy relationships?
- What qualities do you admire most in your role models?
- What motivates you?
- What qualities do you wish to develop in yourself professionally and personally?
What are your future goals? What qualities will it take to achieve them?
Consider these and other questions that might inform what key values you want to prioritize in your job search, on the job and in your life. You can use them as a guideline to work toward your goals and advance your career.
Another practice you might try is printing out a physical copy of the list of core values above and sorting them into three categories: very important, important and not important. Then, try selecting your top three to six “very important” values. Don’t think too critically during this activity—go with your instincts and see what you come up with.
Related: Core Values of a Great Leader
Using your core values
Once you have defined a few values to prioritize, you can use them in a few different ways:
1. Include core values in your resume
If you are updating or creating a resume, it might be helpful to list your core values as relevant to the position you’re applying for. Especially if you are new to the job market or have little professional experience, identifying how you like to conduct work might be helpful for employers. If you do have work experience, you might weave core values into examples of specific accomplishments in your previously held jobs.
2. Align your core values with companies when searching for jobs
Search for jobs at companies that align with the type of work you want to do, the culture you want to be in and the mission you want to work toward. Carefully review the job description for ways your core values would be relevant and helpful in the role. You should also do company research to ensure the company’s mission and core values align with your own.
3. Discuss your core values during interviews
Many employers will ask questions specifically about what qualities are most important to you during interviews. These might be questions like, “What motivates you?”, “What type of employee are you?” or “Why did you choose to apply here?” You can use your core values to answer these questions and to provide context to your most important accomplishments. For example, if you helped your previous company increase productivity by 15%, you can explain how you highly value responsibility with time and resources.
4. Use core values in the workplace
If you’ve gotten a job or have been in a career for several years, you can use your core values to continue advancing in your role. Clearly defining your goals can help you make important decisions about your career like which industry you want to be in or what short-term and long-term goals you should set.