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Professional Values: How to choose and use your values

After more than a decade in the tech industry I feel like there has been too much buzz about values.

But also not nearly enough.

Over the years I've worked with and in companies that have fully embodied their values in everything that they did and I saw the dramatic impact it can have.

I've also worked with companies on the other side: those that nail some values on the wall that are contrary to who they are because they're what they think they should be, or they neglect them entirely.

But this post isn't about why companies should have values.

It's about why you should define your professional values, how to choose them (including about 100 values you can review to try on and see if they fit), and most importantly when and how to use your professional values.

Why you need professional values

There are probably a million reasons why values are important.

FFS they're in my opinion the biggest benefit to organized religion and the whole purpose of parenting, however I digress.

Whether you are intentional about them already or not, you already have values.

In fact, you have a lot of them.

When you scroll through the list later on, you'll noticed that most of them you relate to.

But for your professional values, there is a difference: you need to define the ones that are most important to who you are at work.

Once you have this information you are integrate your values into your day to day actions more effectively, as well as your strategy, decisions and ways you approach conflict and celebration.

What are your professional values

While I can't make this so simple by handing them to you, this is something I have worked with clients to nail down to an art.

And it's actually very simple.

Who do you want to be?

Values ultimately become adjectives, ways that people describe you.

So when you're trying to define your values, what you're really trying to do is choose how you want to be known.

That's much simpler right?

Think about it: you're at an event or in a meeting, and you have to depart before everyone else. Once you leave, what do people say about you?

This can be a scary exercise if you are worried about your current personal brand, but this question isn't necessarily asking what people are actually saying about you.

It's asking what you want them to say.

When you know how you want to be known, it becomes easy to focus on aligning your actions and intents to be that person.

Usually I have my clients select 3-5 main values to focus on. It doesn't mean that all other values and descriptors fade away, these just become the litmus test you run against your actions.

For instance, if your core value and how you want to be known is for being innovative, a central piece of your career strategy is going to trying new things. You'll expect to break things and fix things. You'll offer crazy ideas that just might work. You will prototype new processes that save minutes and dollars.

There is an important note I must highlight there. It's essential here to choose a values that you truly identify with and that resonate for you.

You may aspire to be other things and cultivate other qualities, but your core values you define here must be the ones you already feel like you embody and are most important to you.

For example, one person I met with rated transparency as a core value for themself and their company. However, they by nature were not transparent. They were closed and preferred to provide information on a need to know basis. When we dug into why they had chosen and were trying to cultivate transparency we discovered it was because they felt like openness was the current trend in the tech industry. Their lack of openness was a perk to most of their team members, however the ones they hired against this value they were experiencing deep tensions with - and it was directly related to this misalignment

Don't judge your values.

Own them and your awesomeness, because even the one you think won't play to your advantage will end up being your super power.

Possible professional values list

Many of the professionals I know have a hard time getting started - and I did too the first time I went through this exercise to define my professional values - and that's why I have a list of values.

Here are 100 professional values that you can review, ponder and ultimately use to find the ones that are most meaningful and important to you.

What I recommend doing with this list is reviewing it. You can print it and cross off the ones that don't resonate, or write down the ones that do. Then whittle it down to 3-5 that speak loudest and feel the most you.

How to use professional values

One of the reasons I think so many people have resistance to choosing professional values is that they don't know how to use them.

And if you won't integrate these into your career and life, don't bother going through this process.

However, you have gotten this far, so hopefully you either have selected your professional values OR you intend to.

Once you have them, the sky will open with glorious potential.Okay, maybe not that far... but you will find benefit to having them in so many ways.

Stress Checkpoint

This is one of the ways your values should be capitalized on that few people talk about.

Look, it's easy to be at your best when you're at your best.

It's when shit hits the fan that you have the opportunity to BE who you really are.

That's why I actually love conflict or stressful situations - it gives you the opportunity make deliberate decisions to LIVE by your values.

For examples, if one of your values is kindness and you have a customer screaming at you on a conference call you have the opportunity to use kindness to diffuse the situation and even recognize the kindness in the other person (yes, the one screaming at you... because chances are their intentions are good, it's just their actions are misguided).

Career Success Planning

Of course you will use your values in your career success plan.

Your strategy, decision making and day to day executive should be influenced by your values.

The simple act of saying this is a quality that is important to you is one thing.

Living it is another.

Without integrating your values into your day to day life at work (and even at home) you won't be sure that you're consistently showing up the way you truly want to show up at work.

In your Professional Mission Statement.

A professional mission statement is a personal mission statement that focuses on who you are as a professional.

Values are central to any mission statement, be it a personal mission statement, career vision statement, company mission statement, or anything in between,

In fact, once you have your values, and especially when you have articulated your career vision, creating your professional mission statement becomes super easy.

When considering new companies

Having alignment between your values and the values of your employer is super important to you being happy and successful where you are.

I've personally experienced the friction where the two don't match.

I joined a company and came to realize there was a mismatch in top values. Customer-centricity has always been one of my top professional values - no company exists without customers, right - and while it's not that this company didn't consider their customers or anything terrible like that... there were just values that outranked that particular one. And the values that outranked weren't ones that ranked highly for me.

And to be totally clear, I loved working for this company and the people I worked with, but that misalignment ultimately made me frustrated most of the time, and sure that at least at times the feeling was mutual. Tensions are always felt on both sides of a relationship, be it professional, personal or familial.

Ultimately, if you're considering a new role, evaluating how well you're synchronized on values is essential to your long term success - and theirs.

I wish this was as easy as asking them about it, or reading the ones they share on their careers site, but it often isn't.

Sometimes values aren't defined (especially at startups), or they don't match the actual values (looking at your again startups).

Do your due diligence and detective work to figure out what theirs really are and decide on how well they fit with yours.

Places to get started on your research: glassdoor, asking during interviews, observation, and asking past team members.


With so many benefits and essential ways to apply your professional values, they truly are a must have to have a thriving and successful career (and the strategy needed to build it).

Your professional mission statement won't be the only important element though, you'll also need a career success plan to supplement it. If you haven't created one yet, learn how to create a career success plan and check out my video which breaks down a career success plan example. Your next step will be to integrate your values into your professional mission statement.

I'd love to know - do you have values (r will you be creating them now)? Let me know in the comments!

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