How your personality and values affect your career goals

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By Emilio Lorenzo and Emily Tasca

Emilio Lorenzo is the assistant director of career advisement in NSU’s Office of Career Development. He understands the importance of helping students reach their career goals and works with all students, including undergraduate, graduate and professional level students, to achieve their professional goals.

Emily Tasca is a member of the career advisement team in NSU’s Office of Career Development. She works with current students and alumni at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels.  

Growing up, your interests probably fluctuated often. We all had our Hello Kitty, Tamagotchi or even Ninja Turtles phases, which is the beauty of our interests. We always learn more about ourselves as we pursue these new areas. Even though our interests may change over time, the underlying catalyst that motivates us and makes us who we are is the core values that make up our character.

If you can’t articulate today what your core values are, they are embedded within us and at times may have been developed through pursuits of past interests or passions. Our values can also be the compass that leads us to a career that will provide fulfillment in the three pillars of your life: social, personal and career. Uncovering, identifying and understanding your values can be an important step toward setting realistic career goals. You can’t set a goal for what you want if you don’t even know what you’re looking for.

A value can be defined as something that you consider to be important or beneficial, and can therefore have an influence on your decision making, and in this case, your career planning. For example, let’s say you are searching for jobs and you have found two that are similar. Both are high-paying positions, but one is located in South Florida, and the other in California. One of your strongest values is family and support. Although both will provide you financial support, if your family is primarily located in South Florida, only one of these options will satisfy your need to be near family. Understanding this value helps you to evaluate opportunities through a certain lens, as you will see the world much differently once you understand the components that contribute to your happiness.

There are an abundance of things that any person might consider to be a value. That’s the beauty of values: you can value anything as long as you are able to articulate what that value means to you. Your values could be big-picture things, like the environment you’re working in or the company culture, or they could be more specific, like monetary compensation or job security. It can be difficult to articulate values that you don’t even realize are important to you.

Things that people don’t always think about are the types of recognition they receive for their work, support received from management or even things like enjoying the relationships you have with your coworkers. Realistically, you end up spending more time with coworkers than family, so if you value a work setting that promotes teamwork and requires cohesiveness, then working with others that you generally enjoy the company of cannot only make your job easier, but more enjoyable. Similarly, if you value financial gain, but at the same time value being acknowledged for your work, you might find that even a job that pays well won’t be satisfying if your colleagues don’t recognize the hard work you are putting in each day.

The challenge with following your values is that, especially early on in your career, you may not be able to find an opportunity that fulfills all the values you are looking for, which is why prioritizing your values is just as important as defining them. For example, let’s say your long-term goal is to enter the medical field as a doctor, and your top three values are financial gain, helping others and having a family life, in that order. In looking for your first position after medical school, you may find that you can fulfill two of those three values easily. This career path might provide all three values at some point, but early in your career, you may have to trade off one for another. Trade-offs are a part of our everyday life, and so they are present in this process of finding our true passions and how values align with those passions.

Overall, there are many factors that go into deciding on a career path. A good way of looking at it would be in the context of a trip or planned destination. The end destination is decided upon by your interests and passions, but the path you take to get there is guided by your core values. Self-reflection and taking an inventory of what’s important in your life will help you identify and understand your values.

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