Aligning ambition with purpose: The importance of identifying your core career values

There are many paths to take. The question is, which is right for you?

Find your career path by examining your values.

Mandy Menaker is founder of  Mandy Menaker Communications.

Thanks to my unwavering trust in Netflix’s algorithm, I recently embarked on a bingefest of legal drama ”Suits.” While I won’t give away too much of the plot (it’s good, just watch it), the drama centers around the seemingly 18-hour workdays of a bunch of driven New York lawyers. In the fictional law office of Pearson Hardman, the lawyers who work the highest number of hours seem to get the most praise.

While I respect the hustle, these days I am more interested in a job that prioritizes impact over billable hours, and sustainable habits over burnout. However, that was not always the case. There are many jobs I worked where the thrill of chasing a major press win or a promotion was enough to keep me answering emails until 2 a.m.

A demanding, fast-paced job is just as reasonable to seek out as a position that offers a more relaxed environment, as long as it aligns with your current goals and needs. By identifying your values, you can make better career choices and find teams and companies that check your boxes. There are three different types of values to consider:



Intrinsic values

Your intrinsic values are what keep you motivated and engaged in your job. For example, you could be looking for a role where you get to create and build PR campaigns from scratch and feel creatively inspired by the work. You may be someone who loves autonomy and being an individual contributor or you may be more interested in collaborative environments where you can gain mentorship and mentor others. Start by defining what fulfills you at work, and the type of interactions you most value in a workday.

Extrinsic values

Your extrinsic values are rewards that are a bit more tangible, such as your compensation package. These needs can vary greatly depending on your financial situation. You may be looking for a high-paying job that will help you pay down college loans or be seeking a company that offers terrific medical coverage and mental health support. Extrinsic values can also have to do with clout – you may desire a household brand on your resume or be interested in adding a shiny award to your bio, two things that should influence the work you seek out.

Lifestyle values

Your lifestyle values are based on how you want to live and spend your time away from work. Your preference may be to live in a large, busy city. Or you could be looking for a job that allows you to work remotely from wherever you choose. It’s also okay if your lifestyle values shift as your priorities and goals change over time. Earlier in your career, you may be eager to take a job that jumpstarts your professional network and includes traveling to several conferences a year. Later in life, you may prefer a job that allows you to stay closer to home and spend your downtime on hobbies instead of commuting.

How my goals stack up

In my early 30s I was in my dream job, regularly working 12+ hours a day. I added a major brand to my resume and learned an incredible amount about public relations, storytelling and crisis communications. However, a complicated fertility journey led me to rethink my values.

When I was finally able to start a family after years of trying, I made the decision to start my own communications consultancy. I am now afforded the opportunity to scale up or down on projects based on the needs of my family and set better boundaries for my working hours. I have also created a non-negotiable list of guiding principles that help me to be selective and leave space for the clients and projects that align with my values. The work I do is fulfilling and pays the bills, but my intrinsic, extrinsic and lifestyle needs have shifted along the way.

So, what are your core career values?


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