Your work self: values at work

Introducing a new column from a longtime MSR contributor


Now that you have started the journey toward self-sufficiency, you need to identify your values at work. Values are conditions and attributes which we consider necessary to our well-being and on-the-job satisfaction.

When we think of what we value, words such as family, time and love often come to mind. When we think of what we value at work, compensation, salary, benefits, achievement and recognition are some words that come to mind. As you begin to identify what you value, ask yourself the following questions:

Why do I want to work?

What do I want my job to provide?

Which workplace conditions will give me job satisfaction?

As you generate answers to these questions, rate the degree of importance that you place on each of your answers using this scale:

1 = Very important to me

2 = Reasonably important to me

3 = Somewhat important to me

4 = Not important to me at all

Your next step is to now narrow down your list to the five core values you absolutely must have — the ones you can’t live without in your job/workplace. Your answers to these questions will jumpstart your discovery of your work self. The last step is to write down your top three answers and practice stating them as you would if asked these questions during a job interview.

Expressing your work values during a job interview

As you start the job interview process, you will be asked on numerous occasions to answer questions about what you value at work. Even though you may know what is important to you, anxiety and nervousness can easily make even the most articulate candidate a bit tongue-tied.

The best advice I have received for preparing for interviews is don’t prepare answers, prepare stories. Storytelling allows you to describe your values in a way that is dynamic, multifaceted and most of all, memorable.

Most importantly, we tend to remember the details of stories or experiences we’ve had, even though we may be anxious. Once we start to tell a story about why we value what we value, we become relaxed. When we are nervous, the details of a memorized answer may be forgotten, stilted, and not reflective of what makes us unique and different from other applicants.


Look for regular “Ready for Work” columns on finding, keeping and succeeding in meaningful work.

Tammy McIntyre, M.Ed. is a workforce development consultant providing individuals and small businesses with career development services. She welcomes reader responses to